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2,823 km rural roads built in 2016-17, highest in recent times

The state Panchayat and Rural Development department has constructed 2823 km rural roads under the Pradhanmantri Gram Sadak Yojna ( PMGSY) in 2016-17, the highest in recent times.

This demolishes the Centre's allegation that the state government had constructed only 691-km rural roads in 2016-17. Shortly, after getting the letter from the Centre on March 31, the state chief secretary Badudeb Banerjee gave a reply clearing the confusion which had cropped up as the website of the Panchayat and Rural Development department had not been updated then. The website got updated on April 5.

In 2017-18, the department has decided to augment the state's rural road network by another 3,500 km. The DPRs have been sent to the Centre for clearance. Once the clearance arrives, construction will begin in full swing.

After coming to power in 2011, chief minister Mamata Banerjee gave special emphasis on the construction of rural roads along with supplying filtered water to rural households. The state Public Health Engineering department ( PHE) has taken up plans under which all rural households in the state will get piped water by early 2019.

It may be mentioned that the erstwhile, Left Front government's claims that it had carried out the maximum rural road development during its 34- year rings hollow. It constructed only 10,681 km rural road from 2000-2011 which translates to 971 km per year only. The quality of rural roads was so abysmal that it needed repair after one year. The repair was never carried out making travelling in rural Bengal a punishment. Between 2011 till date, the Panchayat and Rural development department have constructed nearly 13,000 km rural road.

Due to the Centre's policy, it has become nearly impossible for the P and RD department to construct rural roads. Earlier, Centre used to give money for maintenance of the roads. But despite the financial assistance, the Left Front government had failed to maintain them. Now, the Centre bears 60% of the cost of construction while the state government has to dish out the remaining 40%. Moreover, now it is the responsibility of the state government to maintain the rural roads, and for this not a single paisa is allotted.

Subrata Mukherjee, minister for Panchayat and Rural development department said "It is really difficult to maintain rural roads. The cost of maintenance has become very high and if the roads are not maintained properly then the whole effort to construct new roads becomes futile."
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