Connecting rural India?
Roads are extremely important for the rural economy. Well constructed rural roads not only improve the connectivity of the village but also augment livelihood opportunities for the villagers.
The Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana was launched by the Vajpayee government in December 2000 with the objective of providing road connectivity to all rural habitations in the country. In the last 17 years, the scheme has been instrumental in transforming the lives of millions of rural citizens by connecting their villages with pucca roads.
The foundation work laid by Vajpayee led NDA government was carried forward really well by the UPA I. However, marred with policy paralysis, UPA II could not do justice to the programme. When Modi government took Oath in May 2014, it had a tremendous challenge of reviving the progress on infrastructure and covering the lost ground under UPA II. In this article, we assess the government's claim of reviving progress of the PMGSY.
Why are rural roads important?
Close to 70 percent of the population currently resides in rural areas. The government faces a stiff challenge of increasing rural incomes, and ensuring delivery of basic health and education services to the villages.
Good quality roads may not help in these dimensions directly but they indirectly play an important role. For instance, as pucca roads reduce travel time, urban areas become relatively more accessible which widely expands livelihood opportunities. In case of education, good roads expand choice set for education as they reduce travel time and enable students to travel farther distances.
How has been the progress so far?
We find that the UPA I had done good progress on PMSGY and the annual rates of road construction achieved during those years were extremely high. The initial years of the UPA II also looked very impressive but in the latter half they lost the plot badly. From 2008-09 till 2010-11 the three yearly average of roads construction per day stood at 143.96 kms. While between 2011-12 and 2013-14, it fell down to 73.49 kms per day.
Modi led NDA far ahead than UPA II
Under the Modi government, this figure has increased by more than 36 Kms per day to an overall average 109.7 Kms per day. In 2016-17, this rate was substantially higher at 129.7 Kms per day.
There is little doubt that the NDA government has been successful in reviving rural road construction and seems to have "rebooted" the PMSGY. The government now needs to maintain and try to further increase the rate of construction. For this, the government needs to eliminate roadblocks in the tendering and procurement process. Innovative idea like the Inam Pro can be of great help in not only enhancing transparency but also in making the process quicker.
(Nitin Mehta is managing partner, Ranniti Consulting and Research. Pranav Gupta is an independent researcher)