Kharge swings deal, rail project to get MNREGA funds, labour

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New Delhi, July 19: Cash-strapped Railway Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge has swung a deal and managed to get helping hand for a railway project from rural development ministry.

The cash-strapped railways will now construct broad gauge line between Nanded and Yavatmal in partnership with the Rural Development Ministry and Maharashtra government availing MNREGA funds.

Rural Development Ministry has agreed to notify certain works in the 191-km-long Nanded-Yavatmal section under the ambitious rural job scheme MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act).

"A pilot project on 50:50 model in Maharashtra will be launched. Railway officers, Maharashtra officials and Rural Development Ministry officials will work it out to implement the project in Nanded-Yavatmal section," Kharge said yesterday.

The decision to involve rural development ministry in the rail project came through after Kharge met Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Kharge saves

MNREGA funds are meant to be utilised for creation of national assets. "We can create assets through MNREGA. Labour like earth excavation work is required for the new rail line. The work will employment opportunities in village panchayats near the line," Kharge said.

The surplus labors from the MNREGA scheme could be used to build new railway lines.

While finance ministry and plan panel are pushing the railways to raise its own resources, Kharge is in a dilemma on the issue of raising passenger fares. However, he said the rail tariff regulator will be a reality very soon.

But this new innovation in financing a project will help the railways.

Funds sought

Reeling under financial stress, Kharge is hopeful of getting funds from the finance ministry to speed up execution of pending projects.

"We will approach finance ministry at the end of the fiscal year when a lot of unspent funds are left. We will ask for re-appropriation of funds to railways to complete pending projects," Kharge said.

The minister is confident as the government has decided to give around Rs 700 crore for railway projects pending in the north-east after review of infrastructure projects of the region by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week.

The minister said railways was prioritizing the delayed projects worth around Rs 2 lakh crore to put them on fast track with sufficient fund support. Many projects in Karnataka like doubling of Mysore-Bangalore have also gained momentum after Kharge took charge.

The PM set up an inter-ministerial group to accelerate the pace of delayed railway projects. The panel was set up to suggest a creative financing-cum-implementation mechanism to enhance investment and clear the backlog of projects in a prioritized manner.

Rail projects to connect NE

The north-eastern states would be connected to the rest of the country for the first time through railways.
Three projects were identified in the XI and XII plan period have got the funding. Railway line between Harmati- Naharlagun (20 KM) will provide the rail connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh. Dudhnoi- Mehdipathar (20 KM) project will connect Meghalaya.

Along with that Rangapura- North Lakhimpur gauge conversion project in Assam will also receive share in the additional funding. The ministry has set the deadline of January 2014 for first trial runs and a completion date by March, 2014.

PM has also directed the Finance Ministry to provide up to Rs 200 crore for the Lunching - Slichar gauge conversion and the Bogibeel Bridge.

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