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Eyeing 2019 Lok Sabha polls, PMO advances completion dates for rural schemes

The latest such scheme is the Swachh Bharat (Grameen), aimed at turning rural India open defecation-free (ODF), which had a deadline of October 2, 2019 but may now be completed six months ahead of schedule.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: May 24, 2018, 10.23 AM IST
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Ujjwala Yojana
A senior minister told ET that the Ujjwala Yojana and the rural toilets scheme were major factors in the BJP’s massive win in UP last year.
NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is aiming for completion of key rural schemes ahead of the next general election, bringing forward their deadlines in keeping with a campaign pitch of ‘Har ghareeb ko ghar, usmein toilet, bijli aur gas’ (House for every poor person, with toilet, electricity and cooking gas), senior government officials told ET.

The latest such scheme is the Swachh Bharat (Grameen), aimed at turning rural India open defecation-free (ODF), which had a deadline of October 2, 2019 but may now be completed six months ahead of schedule. “We are trying to complete this mission by March 2019. We will either be there by that date or almost there,” said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. So far, 84% ODF coverage has been achieved under the scheme.

The Centre is also aiming to give out five crore cooking gas or LPG connections under the PM Ujjwala Yojana by December 2018 – this was the original scope of the scheme till earlier this year when it was expanded to eight crore connections. Nearly four crore connections have been given under the scheme so far, about 80 lakh of them in the past five months, and the scheme is at the heart of the Centre’s ongoing Gram Swaraj Abhiyan.

A senior minister told ET that the Ujjwala Yojana and the rural toilets scheme were major factors in the BJP’s massive win in Uttar Pradesh last year.

ET had reported last week that the target to construct one crore houses under PM Awas Yojana (Grameen) had been advanced from March 2019 to December 2018, the new deadline for the ‘BharatNet’ plan to connect all villages with optical fibre for internet as well. The ‘Saubhagya’ scheme to provide electricity to all 3.8 crore non-electrified households is also being pushed for completion by year-end instead of its original deadline of March 2019, as the Centre is promising an incentive in the form of 15% higher share of expenses for states that can meet the new target.

A key factor behind the Centre’s push, officials said, is the “performance” of Uttar Pradesh, which had the maximum ground to cover among all states over the past year in all the schemes. “UP has built over eight lakh houses under PM Awas (Gramin) in the last one year and has assured that it will build 10-11 lakh more till next April,” said another official. “UP has also fixed a deadline to go completely ODF by October this year. Given that a third of the balance work in Swachh Bharat (Grameen) is in UP, that could be a huge push.”

In comparison, the cleanliness and housing schemes in urban areas are progressing at a slower pace, officials said, adding that there is a lack of coordination between the rural and urban divisions. Besides, they said, availability of nearly 3.8 crore electricity meters in the industry, as required under Saubhagya, is an issue and performance of Bihar and Odisha in the Swachh Bharat rural scheme remains under focus.

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