States spending more on maintenance of old roads to get priority funds

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States spending more on maintenance of old roads will get priority funding under the third phase of the rural road programme, according to government officials. This will ensure better maintenance of roads built under various phases of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), started in 2000.

These roads totaling 125,000 km will be conditioned (strengthened, widened or built afresh) under the newly approved PMGSY-3. For the first five years, the roads built under the PMGSY have to be maintained by the contractor, after which it is the responsibility of the states to maintain them.

According to official sources, over 600,000 km of roads, almost half of those built under various phases of the PMGSY, fall in this category and have completed five years of construction.

The directive has been included as a necessary condition for availing of the Central share of funds under the PMGSY-3 that promises to widen, strengthen and also develop rural roads connecting villages to nearby mandis, hospitals and schools.

“Several roads connecting the mandis have been built in earlier phases of PMGSY, but the volume of traffic on those has increased manifold because of extensive use of tractors and heavy farm machinery. These roads will be widened and strengthened in this phase,” an official said.

Besides, funds from MNREGA will also be used to plant trees on the roadsides in rural areas. That apart, all states that reform the functioning of their agriculture markets in line with the new Model APMC Act, also known as the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017, will also get priority in Central funding under the PMGSY-3.

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Reforming agriculture markets has been given a huge weight in judging a state’s eligibility for funding under the PMGSY-3. Though, the Centre issued the Model Act in 2017, few states have come forward and adopted it in full despite repeated efforts by the government. One big agenda of the new high-powered committee of chief ministers — set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the chairmanship of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis — on agriculture reforms is to prepare a time-bound action plan and road map for states to implement the Model Act. 

“This (linking the PMGSY with farm market reforms) would ensure that states reform and modernise their agriculture markets which would be of great help to farmers,” the official said.

The Centre, along with the states, plans to spend around Rs 29,000-30,000 crore annually till 2024-25 to complete the widening and strengthening of 125,000 km of rural roads under the scheme. Of this, the Centre’s share will be Rs 19,000 crore while the rest will be spent by states.

Just as in all earlier phases of the PMGSY, the Centre will sign MoUs with the states for facilitating the road construction in this phase. Also, till now, only 15 per cent of the roads used green technology under the rural roads programme, but in the third phase, all roads have to mandatorily use it.

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