PM lays foundation stone for rail lines in MP

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Jhabua, MP, Feb 8 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced that the National Rural Guarantee Scheme, assuring at least 100 days' employment to the needy, will be extended to all the districts of Madhya Pradesh from April.

The Scheme currently covers 31 districts of the State.

Expressing concern over the migration of tribals due to afforestation and lack of employment opportunities, Dr Singh said afforestation had deprived tribals of work opportunities in backward western Madhya Pradesh and they were forced to seek employment elsewhere, he said after laying the foundation stone of two railway lines linking the backward Dhar and Jhabua districts with Gujarat.

The 200-km Dahod-Indore via Jhabua line would cost Rs 678 crore, while the 152-km ChhotaUdepur-Dhar line was expected to cost Rs 608 crore.

Dr Singh reached Indore by a special aircraft and then arrived here by helicopter. He was accompanied by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Minister of State for Railway Naranbhai J Rathwa, Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachouri and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chouhan.

Dr Singh said that henceforth forest-dwellers would be spared the threat of eviction with the Centre enacting a law to grant them land ownership rights.

Mr Prasad indicated that the coming railway budget would be a populist one specially benefitting the poor.

At a public meeting here, Dr Singh advised the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime in Madhya Pradesh to ensure maximum use of centrally-sponsored programmes for uplift of the poor.

He lavished praise on Mr Prasad by describing as a miracle the bringing of the Railway out of the red and garnering of a Rs 45,000-crore profit. ''The Railway, which was in loss for years, was brought into profit in four years,'' Dr Singh said.

Mr Prasad announced that a sleeper factory would be set up in the district and tribals provided employment in laying of tracks.

BJP Vice-President Vikram Verma and Indore BJP MP and former union minister Sumitra Mahajan were notable absentees in the programme.

UNI Team-AC VD HS1923

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