Thursday, October 01, 2020


Roads lead to rural prosperity and secure national security

Yadavindra S Rana | September 10, 2020 01:19 PM

CHANDIGARH:Renowned economist Robert Chambers once said that if he had more and more money, he would build still more roads. The words flash the importance of roads. What is the best way to turn ‘Bharat’ into ‘India? In the past, government had allocated huge amounts to various schemes and ordained subsidies worth crore of rupees. But actually these initiatives are the best ways to reduce poverty. The answer is ‘No.’ In reality, ‘Bharat’ need, above all connectivity. We have focused our attention to provide connectivity of cities to the global economy and in this blind race
‘Bharat’ lagged behind. Today, many villages are not even connected by roads.
It is a fact that roads can incubate a thousand small businesses and convert villages into towns. “Rural productivity cannot be high without roads, ” said Dr R.S. Minhas, Bilaspur. Punjab and Haryana had demonstrated most dynamic rural economies and lowest poverty rates. Thanks to good
roads network. Mr M.S Gill who was development commissioner in Punjab once said that in developing Punjab he concentrated on a one-point agenda, build all-weather roads and the people will take care of the rest.
The idea clicked and the green revolution in Punjab hinged not only on R and D but roads too. Indeed, the returns to road investment were even higher then than at present. The present government has realized the importance of M.S. Gill’s idea and roads connectivity is its priority.
For decades, rural roads in the country were neglected on one pretext or the other by most of the states. In 1970, Maharashtra scheme created an illusion that durable rural roads could be built with labour-intensive techniques. In practice labour-intensive roads proved not durable at all and those built in dry season vanished in the monsoon.
In 2000 the government has brought out Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. It for the first time ordained mechanized techniques to provide high-quality, all-weather roads to 1.6 lakh rural habitations those have still waited for pucca roads. Experts have viewed that it was one of the
best functioning programmes in rural development.
In 2004, there was change in government at the Centre and in 2004, the UPA government launched Bharat Nirman and ambitious infrastructure programme for rural areas. Aims at providing pucca road, electricity, telecom and drinking water in every village having over 1000 people, this overlapped with the PMGSY. Progress on Bharat Nirman has been spotty but rural connectivity has at last become a high government priority and this bodes well for the future.
The IFPRI paper had also estimated the impact o different government programmes on rural growth and poverty reduction in the past. It was proved that road investiment gave the biggest bang for buck, followed by agriculture R and D with education lagging some way behind. Subsidies
on fertilizer, credit and power remained at the bottom.
Some may say that roads are not of course the only things that matter—other rural projects and policies matter a great deal too. But connectivity enhances the value of every other rural project since it not only empowers people improved mobility and access but also the government from national security point of view. In absence of roads, remote areas have the worst connectivity. Hence they are among the poorest and slowest growing but accelerate their growth
when provided connectivity.

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