With a clear eye on the coming Lok Sabha elections, the United Progressive Alliance government on Thursday showered a bonanza of projects and schemes that are impossible to be completed during its remaining life span of another 100 days, with many projects set to be achieved only by 2012 when the 11th Plan ends.
The financial commitments that the Union Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs made through a plethora of decisions that will have to be implemented by the next government after the elections exceed Rs 9500 crores. Both the meetings were chaired by Pranab Mukherjee.
The long list of approvals given in a single day include two locomotive factories in Railway Minister Lalu Prasad's Bihar, two new All-India Institute of Medical Sciences-level medical colleges and upgradation of six other medical colleges, Rs 500 crores to the Cotton Corporation of India to keep farmers happy by buying their cotton, another Rs 746 crores for fishermen and development of marine facilities, four-laning of roads in Gujarat and Rajasthan costing Rs 2865 crores and two two-lane roads in Rajasthan and Karnataka.
Sources in the government say many more announcements are in the pipeline that may be made by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee while tabling the vote-on-account in Parliament. They said the government would go on announcing benefits to various sections of the society until the day the model code of conduct of the Election Commission comes into force with the announcement of general elections.
Bihar Benefits: Lalu Prasad got approval for two green field electric and diesel locomotive factories in Bihar, one in his constituency, Madhepura and another in Marhowra region of Saran district of Bihar, involving an investment of Rs 2000 crores.
The Railways' cost will be Rs 520 crores as the rest will come from the foreign companies shortlisted for the joint venture--Germany's Siemens and Bombardier and French Alstom for the electric locomotive factory and General Electric, India and Electro-Motive Diesel, USA for the diesel one. The target is to acquire 800 electric and 1000 diesel locomotives from these plants, over a period of ten years.
Medical colleges: The Cabinet also approved establishment of two AIIMS-like institutions in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and the upgradation of six other medical colleges in the second phase of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana that will together cost upward of Rs 2500 crores.
The government medical colleges to be upgraded are in Nagpur, Amritsar, Tanda in Himachal Pradesh, Madurai, and the Aligarh Muslim University medical college, and one in Haryana. The Centre will invest Rs 125 crores in each of them, requiring the states to bear the remaining Rs 25 crores.
Cotton purchase: Another Rs 150 crores were sanctioned as reimbursement to the Cotton Corporation of India for 2008-09 season to undertake minimum support price operations to protect the farmers' interests and sale at discount to the bulk purchases as done in Maharashtra by the state's marketing federation.
Fisheries: The CCEA cleared a Rs 746-crore proposal to help fishermen with motorised craft and implements and provide infrastructure for marine fishing during the 11th Plan. The proposal envisages motorising of 10,000 traditional boats, concessional diesel to 17,000 mechanised boats annually, 5550 LPG kits to small boats, 65 intermediate craft besides a massive infrastructure dose that includes 10 new fishing harbours, 30 fish landing centres, repair and renovation of 15 existing fishing harbours and fish landing centres, development of four central fish markets, 36 fish preservation and processing facilities such as cold storage and ice plants, 45 fish retail outlets and 30 new transportation hubs.
Agro research: On the agriculture research front, the CCEA decided to continue the Directorate of Oilseeds Research and All India Coordinated Research Projects on Sunflower, Safflower and Castor in Hyderabad. It also decided to redesignate three national research centres as full-fledged directorates for respective crops -- Junagarh in Gujarat for groundnut, Bharatpur in Rajasthan for rapeseed-mustard and Indore for soyabean. The research projects at these places as also those at Kanpur and Jabalpur for linseed and sesame respectively will be continued during the 11th Plan.
BPL pension: The pension provided to those above 65 in the below poverty line group under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme is being further extended to others in the same BPL group under the national social assistance programme to provide a pension of Rs 200 per month.Widows who are in the age group of 40-64 years and persons in the age group of 18-64 years with severe and multiple disabilities will also get this pension.
The National Social Assistance programme has been extended for the purpose to include
(a) Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme
(b) Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme
(c) Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme and
(d) National Family Benefit Scheme
Roads: The two projects for four-laning of roads sanctioned were for the Surat-Hazira section on national highway 16 in Gujarat and Jaipur-Tonk-Deoli section of NH-12 in Rajasthan.The two-laning projects similarly cleared by the CCEA are for Beawar-Gomti section of NH-8 in Rajasthan and Hospet-Bellary section of NH-63 in Karnataka.
Urban Tarnsport: The CCEA also modified the guidelines of submission on urban infrastructure to fund the urban transport projects in the form of purchase of buses.