ri-gram-sadak-y.jpg” width=”330″ height=”212″ />
Rural road connectivity is a key component of rural development. It promotes access to economic and social services and thereby generates increased agricultural incomes and productive employment opportunities. As a result it is also a key ingredient in ensuring sustainable poverty reduction. Notwithstanding the efforts made over the years at the State and Central levels through different programmes, many habitations in the country are still not connected by all-weather roads. It is well known that even where connectivity has been provided, the roads constructed are of such quality (due to poor construction or maintenance) that they cannot always be categorised as all-weather roads. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched on 25 December, 2000 as a fully funded centrally sponsored scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country. The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.
The primary objectives of the PMGSY are to provide connectivity, by way of an all-weather road (with necessary culverts and cross-drainage structures, which is operable throughout the year), to the eligible unconnected habitations in the rural areas with a population of 500 persons and above in plain areas. In respect of the hill States (North-East, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand), the Desert Areas, the Tribal areas and backward districts, the objective would be to connect eligible unconnected habitations with a population of 250 persons and above.
The PMGSY permits the upgradation of the existing roads in those districts where all the eligible habitations of the designated population size have been provided all-weather road connectivity. However, it must be noted that upgradation is not central to the programme and cannot exceed 20 per cent of the State’s allocation as long as eligible unconnected habitations in the State still exist. In upgradation works, priority is given to through routes of the rural core network, which carry more traffic.
Notwithstanding the efforts made over the years at the State and Central levels through different programmes, many habitations in the country are still not connected by all-weather roads. It is well known that even where connectivity hasbeen provided, the roads constructed are of such quality (due to poor construction or maintenance) that they cannot always be categorised as all-weather roads.
National Rural Roads Development Agency
The Ministry of Rural Development set up the National Rural Roads Development Agency (NRRDA) to provide Operational and Management support to the programme. The NRRDA provides support to the following:
- Designs and specifications and cost norms
- Technical agencies
- District rural roads plans and core network
- Scrutiny of project proposals
- Quality monitoring
- Monitoring of progress, including online monitoring
- Research and Development
- Human resource development
Funding and Allocation
States may, each year, distribute the State’s allocation among the districts giving 80 per cent on the basis of road length required for providing connectivity to unconnected habitations and 20 per cent on the basis of road length requiring upgradation under the PMGSY. The district-wise allocation of funds is also be communicated to the Ministry or NRRDA every year by the State Government. In making the district-wise allocation, the road lengths already taken up under the PMGSY or any other Programme may be excluded. The figures of new construction length will thus keep on changing every year till such time as all unconnected habitations (of the eligible population size) have been covered in the district. In addition to the allocation to the States, a special allocation of upto 5 per cent of the annual allocation from the rural roads share of the diesel cess will be made for:
- Districts sharing borders with Pakistan and China (in coordination with Ministry of Home Affairs)
- Districts sharing borders with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal (in coordination with Ministry of Home Affairs)
- Left Wing Extremists areas in the districts identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs
- Extremely backward districts (as identified by the Planning Commission) which can be categorised as special problem areas
- Research and Development projects and innovations.
Problems and Challenges
There are a number of problems which have hindered the programme to a substantial extent. The major drawback is the poor quality of construction of the roads. The quality of roads has been found to be sub-standard as the ingredients used to make the roads are of poor quality. Besides, the roads, according to the programme’s objectives, must be maintained and the roads were to be made with a 5 year guarantee. But the conditions of roads deteriorates rapidly and proper maintenance is not being done. The money allocated for the scheme has not been utilised properly either and contractors are often blamed for misappropriating funds. Consequently, both the maintenance and the construction of roads suffers and targets cannot be met. The intended beneficiaries have to wait for a long time for a road to be constructed, and once it is constructed, there is no guarantee for them that it will be maintained. Like so many other Government schemes, this one too, even though it is touted as the Pradhan Mantri’s Gram Sadak Yojana, leaves much to be desired yet another case, in the eyes of the beneficiaries, of unfulfilled promises.