Slamming former president APJ Abdul Kalam's concept of PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) as a failure, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday launched the restructured PURA scheme that combines rural infrastructure development with economic regeneration in Private Public Partnership (PPP) mode and seeks to harness the efficiencies of the private sector.
Ramesh said that while the PURA launched by Kalam has failed, the reworked PURA will succeed. "Kalam’s PURA project failed. This will succeed," the minister said.
He said the restructured PURA project has "nothing to do" with Kalam’s project.
"The focus is on water supply, sanitation, physical infrastructure as opposed to talking about knowledge connectivity," Ramesh said.
The PURA envisioned by Kalam laid emphasis on physical, electronic and knowledge connectivity to stem the rural-urban divide and promote balanced development.
Incidentally, the dias from which Ramesh was speaking had a huge poster on PURA with a picture of Kalam.
Ramesh said that various government programmes would be integrated under the reworked PURA for the benefit of panchayats. "In three years, the results will be before people."
Giving reasons for the launch of the reworked project from a panchayat in Kerala, the minister said the Thalikulam panchayat in Thrissur district was "neither a rural area nor completely urban."
"In Kerala, there are 461 such 'trishankus' (heavily expanded rural areas). Villages are becoming bigger and bigger. We are focusing on those villages that have become towns in the last 10 years," he said and added that the number of "trishanku" towns had gone up to 3,600 in the country.
The minister, who also launched a reworked PURA project at Thirurangadi panchayat in Malappuram district, said the project will be launched at seven other places across Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra in about a month.
Incidentally, the Congress is in power in four of the six states where the reworked PURA will be launched.
The minister later told media persons that while 500 PURA projects would be launched in the 12th plan, the country needed a total of 3,500 such projects.
Ramesh said his ministry has sought Rs16,500 crore from the Planning Commission for PURA projects in the 12th plan. He added PURA will be given a new name.
He said funding for projects under PURA will come from capital grants under the scheme, government programmes and private financing.
PURA was launched by the rural development ministry from 2004-05 to 2006-07 on a pilot basis. It has been re-configured after extensive consultation and research process with state governments, private sector and multi-lateral development organisations like Asian Development Bank.
Ministry officials said that the reworked PURA was the first-ever attempt at delivering infrastructure and amenities through PPP in the rural areas.