Modi govt set to announce Rs 70,000-crore rural road building project

Buoyed by the success of its rural roads programme in its first tenure, the Narendra Modi government is set to announce a Rs 70,000 crore road building project over the next five years, linking villages with nearby mandis to boost the rural economy.

Officials said it would involve constructing over 125,000 kilometres of roads  and would form part of the third phase of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).

They added that 40 per cent of the estimated cost would be shared by the state governments and the remainder paid by the Centre. 

“Several villages and rural areas do not have proper road connectivity with mandis which hinders smooth movement of farm produce and impacts incomes. Having good road connectivity will indirectly boost farmers’ income,” a senior official said.

He added: “Within villages work is already on by state governments to build cement roads with proper drainage facilities.”
Experts said that numerous studies show that rural roads improve the farm economy. “Research has shown that good road connectivity in rural areas has much more impact on growth and poverty than even poverty alleviation programmes,” said Mahendra Dev, director of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research. 

Separately, the government is also drawing up an action plan before the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech on August 15 to connect all villages with roads irrespective of the number of people residing in them. 

This will mark a departure from the policy to date under which roads connnected all houses in villages with more than 500 persons in the plains and more than 250 persons in hilly areas. 

The promise of roads in even the smallest and remotest hamlet is one of the main promises the BJP made in its election manifesto.

Officials said that, in order to connect all villages, the Centre might not rely on ‘black-topping’ them as has been the norm so far under the rural roads programmes that started in 2000. Instead, it may just use gravel or similar material as sparsely populated villages may not need a fully developed road. 

In 2014, when Modi came to office, around 178,184 eligible and feasible habitations were not connected with all-weather roads under PMGSY-1 which started in 2000.

However, by the end of Modi’s first term, more than 97 per cent of these homes were connected with rural roads. Only around 5,345 habitations in states such as Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and some Naxalite-affected regions remained unconnected.

“In the next five years, these 5,345 habitations under PMGSY-1 will also get connected,” said the official. 

In addition, the Centre also plans to build 5,000 kilometres of roads by 2022 in areas – already identified by the Home Ministry - where  are active. 

Moreover, around 18,000 kilometres of roads built under the initial phases of PMGSY will now be widened and strengthened in the next five years. 

“But rural roads built so far can only be widened and strengthened in those states where 97 per cent road construction has been completed in the first phase,” said the official. 

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