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Vijayawada: School infra project stuck as funds dry up
- Under the ambitious 'Manabadi: Nadu-Nedu', the state govt proposed to give a complete facelift to over 45,500 schools in three phases at a cost of Rs 16,000 cr
- Though CM 'dedicated' the revamped schools under phase-1 to the students, works worth over Rs 300 cr in around 900 schools out of 15,715 are still going on
Vijayawada: On August 16 last year, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy launched the second phase of his ambitious flagship programme 'Mana Badi: Nadu-Nedu' (our school, then and now) to refurbish over 16,368 state-run schools across the state at a cost of Rs 4,535 crore. Five months since, the programme is still stuck at the starting point as the school education department is devoid of money.
Giving a fresh coat of paint to government school buildings with thematic pictorials adorning the walls, installing new furniture in classrooms along with fans and fluorescent lights, building swanky-clean toilets, providing safe drinking water, setting up of English language labs and building kitchen sheds for preparing mid-day meal were the main works under Mana Badi: Nadu-Nedu.
In all, the government proposed to give a complete facelift to over 45,500 schools in the state in three phases at a total cost of Rs 16,000 crore. However, even the first phase of the programme, launched on Children's Day in 2019, is yet incomplete though the Chief Minister "dedicated" the revamped schools to the students on August 16, 2021.
Works worth over Rs 300 crore in about 900 schools were still "in progress" in different districts under Phase-1, wherein a total of 15,715 schools were supposed to have been renovated.
Besides, the government is yet to clear payment of Rs 323 crore for works completed under Mana Badi Phase-1, according to official sources.
The total estimated cost for Phase-1 works was Rs 3,699 crore, out of which Nabard extended a loan of Rs 1,800 crore. Construction of compound walls for schools in the first phase, taken up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme remained incomplete, as the state government could not release its share of funds. "We will now take up the compound wall works under Nadu-Nedu and subsequently claim reimbursement under NREGS," a top official of the department said.
With hundreds of crores of rupees worth bills not cleared, contractors are said to be shying away from taking up works under Nadu-Nedu Phase-2. Also, the government has not yet achieved the required financial closure as banks are not inclined on lending money. "We require a total of Rs 4,800 crore for the Phase-2 works but so far we could tie-up loan for only Rs 2,300 crore, with Nabard and World Bank agreeing to part-fund the programme. Chances of getting loans from commercial banks look bleak as of now," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Of the Rs 2,300 crore, over Rs 600 crore could go towards clearing the Phase-1 bills. Though the Chief Minister launched (Phase-2) works for refurbishing 16,368 schools, the government subsequently reduced the number to only 12,680, given the meagre availability of funds.
"The cost estimates are now being prepared and will hopefully be done by the end of this month. After that the necessary administrative sanction from the government will be issued," the official added.
There has been a cold response from contractors to the tenders for works. "If we achieve financial closure, we may convince the contractors to come forward, with a guarantee for timely payment. But we have to cross the first hurdle and tie-up for funds soon," the official said. The government has targetted to commence the civil works, under Phase-2, from February 1 and complete them by August 15 this year. But that will be subject to availability of loans.