Azad meets PM; reviews economic, political issues
1 March 2008
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had a meeting with Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh here last evening during which they discussed issues relating to economy of Jammu & Kashmir including power reform grant, Prime Ministerís Reconstruction Plan (PMRP) and setting up of a 1000 MW thermal power project. Mr Azad took up with Dr. Singh the issue of power reform grant for 2007-08, the release of which has been delayed so far to the State. The Prime Minister assured him that the grant would be released within next two to three days. The issue of PMRP Phase 2, based on the report of a high level Task Force set up by the PM headed by Dr. C. Rangarajan, was also discussed in the meeting, which deliberated on how to operationalise and implement the report. Dr Singh asked the State Government to take up matter with the Planning Commission for working out its implementation. In the course of two to three months, the Government would start working on the implementation of Rangarajan Committee report as PMRP, Phase 2. The meeting also reviewed the ongoing PMRP, Phase 1. The State Government sought some restructuring of resources earmarked for power sector. It may be recalled that out of total Rs. 24,000 crore PMRP, Rs. 18,000 crore were earmarked for power. The Chief Minister sought to restructure Rs. 18,000 crore allocation to make it more suitable for J&K.†The Prime Minister asked the State officials to sit with the Planning Commission and PMO and see how it could be done. The setting up of a 1000 MW thermal power project at Udhampur was also discussed. The project, mooted by the State Government, has already received the nod from Union Ministry for Power. The Prime Minister liked the idea and said he would like to see work on the project started soon. Mr Azad requested the Prime Minister to formally inaugurate the Dul-Hasti hydroelectric project. Dr. Singh assured him that he would be visiting the State at the earliest convenience for inauguration of 390 MW project. The meeting was also attended by Economic Advisor to J&K Government, Dr. Haseeb Drabu, Commissioner- Secretary, Finance, B. B. Vyas and Joint Secretary in Prime Ministerís Office, Sanjay Mitra. Later, the Chief Minister had a one on one meeting with the Prime Minister on political situation. They also discussed implementation of the recommendations of Working Groups on Jammu & Kashmir and the recent elections held in Pakistan. Meanwhile, on persuasion of the Chief Minister, the Centre has sanctioned 370 road projects for J&K under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) worth Rs. 1175 crore. The projects are expected to cover 700 rural habitations in the State. The decision was taken at a meeting Mr. Azad had with Union Minister for Rural Development, Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh here today. The meeting was also attended by Dr. Drabu, Principal Resident Commissioner, S. V. Bhave, Commissioner-Secretary, Finance, B. B. Vyas, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry for Rural Development and Director General, PMGSY, J. S. Mahapatra and Secretary, R&B, Shailendra Kumar. Mr Azad made a strong case for road connectivity in rural J&K. He said being a hilly State the road construction cost was considerably more than in plain areas. He said J&K had minimum road connectivity compared to other States of the country. He asked for adopting 9010 funding pattern in rural development projects in J&K on the lines of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Presently, projects in Rural Development sector are funded on 5050 basis between State and Central Governments. While sanctioning 370 odd road projects, the Union Ministry for Rural Development advised the State Government to accord first priority to 1000 plus population unconnected habitations. The State Government was also asked to create more project implementation units (PIU) for implementation of PMGSY as per requirement of the districts, besides charging service tax at the rate of 4.2% on the projects tendered and allotted by April 1, 2007. In view of the quantum of work, the Ministry suggested that the works should be tendered in three phases. The Ministry also proposed that the machinery being purchased for implementation of PMGSY be exempted from entry tax in J&K as per the Union notification. In Jammu & Kashmir, the annual funds utilization under PMGSY remained at Rs. 10 crore from 2001 to 2006 while it is now Rs. 10 crore per month. The Ministry desired that steps be taken to raise it to Rs. 50 crore per month as there was no dearth of resources in this sector. The Ministry also pointed out delays in acquisition of forest and private land for PMGSY projects in the State and urged the Chief Minister to address this issue. The Chief Minister assured Dr. Singh that he would issue necessary instructions to the concerned departments in a meeting next week to be attended by Forest and R&B ministers and administrative secretaries of concerned departments. The Union Minister said that additional administrative and programme funds would be released to the State in the coming week including for cost overrun schemes of Phase I and II being implemented through rural engineering wing. Dr. Singh assured the Chief Minister all possible help from his ministry to implement PMGSY in the State. He said that special specifications have been devised for the projects falling in the areas having frequent snowfall.