RANCHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on the Congress on Saturday, saying that despite being in power for decades, it had delayed crucial public welfare projects and ignored poor farmers of the country, who were now dying of hunger.
The PM, who was addressing a gathering at Palamau, some 180 kilometres west of state capital Ranchi after laying the foundation for the remaining works of North Koel Reservoir Project, said the Congress should be punished for keeping the project in abeyance for about half a century.
"The project was lying unattended for the last 47 years and in the doldrums for the last 25 years. “Tell me, if this is not criminal negligence, what is?” the PM said, adding, “Is this not an act of treachery against farmers and honest taxpayers."
The Prime Minister had approved the project and given Union Cabinet sanction to revive the stalled project in August 2017 for completion of the remaining work. A 24 MW power project planned as an adjunct was, however, scrapped.
The North Koel Reservoir project was envisaged in 1972 for execution along the North Koel river - a tributary of the Sone - to irrigate 111,521 hectares and bring succour to the backward and drought-prone Palamau region in Jharkhand and Bihar. It was stalled in 1993 following objections by the Bihar Forest Department over environmental concerns.
It was felt then that the proposed Mandal Dam would submerge the famous Palamau Tiger Reserve as well as the Betla Wildlife Sanctuary. However, the National Wildlife Board (NWB) cleared the project in 2017 with certain conditions, paving the way for revival.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das claimed the ‘double engine’ NDA governments - at the Centre and in the state - would hasten development. “The construction of the Mandal Dam would revolutionise the perennially drought-hit rural economy of Palamau and Garhwa districts by providing irrigation facilities to parched farmlands in the region,” he said.
The project is being completed as per a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Plan with the Bihar and Jharkhand governments in January 2018.
A supplementary Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between the Union Ministry of Water Resources, National Water Development Agency, NABARD with both states for funding under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) for the project
The project is to be completed in 30 months at an estimated cost of Rs 1622.27 Cr of which Rs1013.11 Cr will be borne by the Centre as LTIF grant under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). The Union government will finance 160% of the cost, with the rest coming from states through NABARD.