As part of its 100-day plan, the Ministry of Rural Development has proposed rolling out phase III of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) for strengthening and widening of 1.25 lakh km of rural roads, primarily those connecting villages to agricultural markets.
The proposal for PMGSY phase III, to fortify all major rural routes connecting villages to mandis, is set to come up before the Cabinet soon, officials said.
“These existing link and through roads are 3.5 m wide and were designed for low traffic volumes more than 10 years ago. Over the years they have become multi-village connectivity roads that take the brunt of heavy transport, trucks and agricultural machinery. Based on traffic density and other scientific factors, these roads have been identified in consultation with the states. The aim is to widen all such roads to 5.5 m and strengthen it by 2024,” said an official.
The ministry estimates that the existing annual allocation of Rs 19,000 crore for overall PMGSY in addition to the states’ share of Rs 8,000 crore would be sufficient for the road construction at a pace of 125 km per day.
Agenda ties up with govt’s alignment plan
The agenda of PMGSY phase III to link rural habitations to mainly agricultural markets is in keeping with the govern-ment’s plans to align its rural development and agricultural schemes. Narendra Tomar taking over as minister for three allied ministries —- Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, and Agriculture and Farmers Welfare — signals a likely conver-gence of many of the schemes of these ministries. A start was made in this direction last year when a sub-group of chief ministers was constituted with the stated goal of aligning works under the MGNREGA scheme “fully to the require-ments of achieving the goal of higher farmers’ income”.
Launched in the early 2000s, PMGSY began with the goal of providing road connectivity to all villages with a population of 500 in plain areas and 250 in hilly areas. Accordingly a total of 1.78 lakh habitations were to be covered, and by 2014 about 56 per cent habitations were connected. With a funding model of 60 per cent Centre and 40 per cent state share, the ministry data states that 97 per cent of eligible and feasible habitations were connected.
Phase II launched in 2013 took up 50,000 km of existing roads for widening and strengthening major link routes connecting villages. “About 30,000 km is complete under phase II, the rest should be done by March 2020. When we took up phase II, we realised that roads connecting villages to agricultural markets need to be put on the agenda for phase III,” said an official
Another work that is up for completion by March 2020 is connecting villages with population of at least 100 each in 374 Maoist-affected blocks. In addition, work is expected to be taken up on certain trunk and through routes in Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected districts that have been identified as important from the security point of view by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Those districts will be taken up under PMGSY, with officials stating that about 5,000 km road work will be completed in LWE areas in nine states by 2022.