Country road to development strengthened

BHARAT NIRMAN: Allocation increased to Rs 31,280 crore against Rs 24,603 crore in 2007-08. Bharat Nirman, the flagship programme of the UPA government for rural infrastructure, with a cost of Rs 1,74,000 crore and a fast approaching deadline of 2009, got an allocation of Rs 31,280 crore this Budget. The highlight this year is the increase in allocation for rural housing. Bharat Nirman targets six development components, viz rural access to housing, roads, drinking water, telephony, electrification and irrigation. For the rural housing scheme, called Indira Awas Yojana, which benefits only those who have land, the Budget provides an increased subsidy for building houses under the programme. The government subsidy of Rs 25,000 crore for houses in the plains will now increase to Rs 35,000 crore. The public sector banks have been asked to give up to Rs 20,000 in loans at an interest of 4 per cent for the Indira Awas Yojana houses. About 6 million houses are targeted to be built under the programme by 2009. So far, 5.1 million houses have been constructed, according to Finance Minister P Chidambaram. OUTLAYS vs OUTCOMES Expenditure is up, education is not % children who can Class Read* Subtract Divide 1 3 3.9 1.5 2 9 14.2 3.7 3 21.6 31.1 11.2 4 42.5 34.7 27.6 5 58.7 31.9 42.4 6 71.7 27.8 54.2 7 79.7 23.4 62.8 8 86.6 18.3 71.6 Average 41.6 23.1 30.1 Note: Children who can divide can subtract as well Source: Pratham 2007 * Read a Class 2 text The allocation of Rs 5,400 crore for rural housing is up from Rs 4,400 crore last year. Bharat Nirman, as a whole, received Rs 31,280 crore, compared to Rs 24,603 crore in 2007-08. Bharat Nirman's component on drinking water, implemented through the Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission, got another feature under the Budget with the finance minister allocating a separate amount of Rs 200 crore for providing drinking water in schools. The allocation for the scheme has also been enhanced from Rs 6,500 crore last year to Rs 7,300 crore this year. The Budget was silent on rural access to telephony under Bharat Nirman except saying that 52 villages were getting access to telephone, well ahead of the target. The scheme targets reaching over 66,000 villages by 2009 and can progress at a rate of 45 houses per day. The Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, which aims at providing electricity connections to all villages by 2009, has been allocated Rs 5,500 crore this year. Access to irrigation under Bharat Nirman got a fillip with the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme allocations getting almost doubled from Rs 11,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore. Under the programme, 24 major and medium irrigation projects and 753 minor irrigation projects will be completed in this financial year, creating an irrigation potential of 500,000 hectares. The scheme targets 10 million hectares. While six million hectares are to be covered under major and medium projects, one million hectares are to be brought under micro irrigation. Chidambaram said that 548,000 hectares were brought under drip and sprinkler irrigation since 2006, while, with a budgetary allocation of Rs 500 crore, 400,000 hectares were being targeted for coverage this year.

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