Rural Roads and Sustainable Development

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Ramanna is 56 years old and lives in a village. He has been living in his village ever since his birth. He has not been able to travel anywhere because his village has no roads. The crops that he grows like rice and tomatoes, and other vegetables cannot be sold anywhere, as there are no transportation facilities available to him. His crops are so rich that he can support his large family with the income that comes from the sale. But this is only a dream that never gets realized. For years he has been waiting for a road in his village so that he can take his products elsewhere and sell them. Often the perishable goods like tomatoes get rotten quickly as he has no storage facilities. The nearest storage facility or market is about 80 kilometers away. He is a desperate farmer who considers suicide as the only solution to end all his miseries.

What is Ramanna?s problem? Is it poverty or unemployment or lack of roads and marketing facilities? Yes. Ramanna is an experienced farmer who needs transportation facilities to sell his produce. He wants good roads so as to access the urban areas for a better price for his crops.

Who does not wish that we had good, motorable roads? Roads are of such importance for a growing economy. Without roads, there cannot be access to any place be it rural or urban. Roads connect us to different places. People living in one area move freely to another area only if there are good roads. In olden days there were only paths through fields and hills and valleys etc. Paths are created by people constantly walking on it. Such paths were a common sight especially in rural areas. We used to walk on those paths for all our needs. These old paths in several places are not to be seen anymore. What used to be people?s paths in several places once upon a time are today small and narrow roads. We even come across narrow asphalted roads in several villages. Many paths have been changed into roads and vehicles ply on these small roads thus connecting a village to other villages or nearby town.

It’s a long road to freedom. But a journey of thousand miles begins with the first step.

India is predominantly rural. There are villages in every district that have remained cut off for ages from the rest of the world for lack of communication and transportation facilities. Without proper roads rural people will find it difficult to market their goods. They will be denied opportunities for growth and development. They might even lose their hard-earned money on additional expenditure especially when they fall sick. Medical facilities won?t be available to them in their villages. Walking to distant towns in an emergency is risky.

What is good governance to citizens who live in rural areas? Do they have a share in national economy? Are they involved in decision-making process? Are they part of planning bodies that approve the budget for them? Do they have a say in things that affect their lives? The current scenario in the country leaves much to be desired. Citizens in rural areas are denied opportunities for growth and development. In a highly competitive world of technological and scientific progress the rural folk is left far behind their counterparts in urban areas. The very things they produce in villages do not fetch them enough to make both ends meet. Often they are the targets of political maneuvering. They are threatened with dire consequences if they oppose or revolt. Even voting which is a fundamental right of a citizen becomes a costly affair for many of them, as they have to vote under duress. They have no freedom to express their opinion.

Above all, the most basic thing necessary for good governance is denied them, i.e. right to information. Without proper knowledge and information, they are powerless. They are only exploited for the benefit of richer classes and higher castes.

Good Governance must reach every citizen in this country. For this we need to connect all the villages of the country to each other and to the nearby towns. With roads constructed in every village it is possible to provide opportunities to rural people to get better markets for their crops, better prices for their produce and better access to information.

Good practices in certain countries can be a good example for us to imitate. For example, rural people in Bangladesh have been empowered as they share latest information through SMS. Even simple women are able to find out the prices for their goods in urban areas. The practice has eliminated middlemen and profits directly accrue to rural people. It has generated a whole lot of ?more?.  More knowledge more money. More economic independence, more participation in rural economy.

It will go a long way in ushering in good governance to rural areas by providing better services to them.

It will open windows of opportunities to rural people.

It will help reduce rural poverty and unemployment and improve rural economy.

Contact with the outside world can help improve the conditions of rural people. Roads are of utmost importance to achieve economic development and reduction of poverty. The Government of India (GOI) has implemented a huge national project called, The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) to provide connectivity to unconnected rural habitations as part of a poverty reduction strategy.  This is perhaps the largest project after India?s independence in scope and resources. If implemented properly, it will bring every village and hamlet with 1000 population (to be covered in First Phase) and hamlets with 500 population (to be covered in Second Phase) into the national mainstream. Hill states and tribal or desert areas also will be covered with less than 500 and 250 population respectively in the two phases.

If the project money is not siphoned off as it has happened in earlier projects, it is expected to bring in a revolution in Indian economy. It will go a long way in ushering in good governance to rural areas by providing better services to them. It will open windows of opportunities to rural people. It will help reduce rural poverty and unemployment and improve rural economy.

Government of India is endeavoring to set high and uniform technical and management standards and facilitating policy development and planning at State level in order to ensure sustainable management of the rural roads network. About 368,000 km of new road construction and 370,000 km of up gradation/renewal is expected to be done at a cost of about $26 billion. For greater details on the project visit

It?s a long road to freedom. But a journey of thousand miles begins with the first step. Can we hope that the journey of GOI that has started in right earnest will come to an end that makes both the GOI and the rural people happy and prosperous?

Author: Cyril Vas- Bangalore

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