Special Correspondent

Rs. 18,696 cr. provided for the project an increase of 54 per cent

NEW DELHI: Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday sought to provide a "complete answer" to those who scoffed at the ambitious Bharat Nirman project. He announced a budgetary increase of 54 per cent for the project in 2006-07.

Including the northeast component, as against Rs 12,160 crore provided in the current year, the corresponding budgetary provision would be Rs 18,696 crore for the next fiscal. "We are determined to soldier on, and execute the programme in the mission mode," he said.

Describing Bharat Nirman as the United Progressive Alliance's approach to governance, Mr. Chidambaram said it was a paradigm shift that would enable us to use the resources thrown up by the engine of growth for building infrastructure and bringing basic amenities to rural India. The project has six components with identified targets to be achieved by 2009.

In the first year of its implementation in 2005-06, Rs 944.18 crore has been released so far as grant under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) and the target of 600,000 hectares of irrigation potential is expected to be created this year. Against the physical target of 56,270 habitations, 47,546 habitations were covered until January this year under the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Project (ARWSP). As for habitations covered under the rural roads programme, 5,337 villages were covered by September 2005 and Rs 3,745 crore has been released so far.

Mr. Chidambaram said 870,000 rural houses have been constructed and a sum of Rs 2,260 crore released until January 2006. The entire allocation for rural electrification of Rs 1,100 crore has been released and the target of covering 10,366 villages is expected to be achieved in the current fiscal. As many as 17,182 villages were provided with a telephone till December 2005 in the first year of the three year programme.

The target for the current year for drinking water supply would be completed in the coming financial year by covering 56,270 habitations and 140,000 schools. Apart from non-coverage, there is the persistent problem of slippage and both the problems would be tackled by conservation, better operational management and water quality monitoring and capacity building at the village level.

The Government will provide non-recurring assistance of Rs 213 crore in 2006-07 for setting up district-level water testing laboratories and field-level water testing kits.

The Finance Minister also proposes to increase the provision for the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission from Rs 3,645 crore to Rs 4,468 crore next year.

There is also a proposal to increase funds for the Rural Sanitation Campaign from Rs 630 crore to Rs 720 crore.

The Government plans to spend Rs 5,400 crore for rural water supply and sanitation.

The allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has also been enhanced to Rs. 2,252.56 as against Rs. 2,092.35 crore last year.