Rural Impetus

Enhanced allocation to fast-track PMGSY implementation

Sensing the importance of a robust rural road network in ensuring economic growth, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), a centrally sponsored scheme, was launched on December 25, 2000. While the programme moved at a slow pace in the initial years of implementation, the construction of rural roads has tripled over the past five years. States such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have emerged as front runners under the programme while several states such as Mizoram, Meghalaya and Goa are still lagging behind. Despite the challenges encountered, the government has encouraged the use of several innovative green technologies and put in place stringent monitoring and feedback mechanisms to ensure in-time completion of targets.

In order to provide an impetus to rural infrastructure creation, the central government has allocated Rs 190 billion to the PMGSY under Union Budget 2019-20. This marks a 22.58 per cent increase over the Rs 155 billion revised budgetary allocation in 2018-19.

Progress so far

During the five-year period 2013-14 to 2017-18, road length constructed under the PMGSY grew at a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent. The year 2017-18 saw the completion of 48,714 km, the highest in the past eight years. Also, the pace of construction of PMGSY roads reached an eight-year high of 134 km per day in 2017-18 as against an average of 73 km during the period 2011-14.

As of February 2019, around 84 per cent of the 177,973 road/bridge works sanctioned under the PMGSY have been completed. Further, around 82 per cent of the 178,184 eligible unconnected habitations have already been provided connectivity. In addition, states have provided connectivity to 16,310 habitations under their own schemes. Acknowledging the significance of rural connectivity, the target date for completion of PMGSY I was advanced from 2022 to 2019.

PMGSY II

PMGSY II was launched in May 2013, for the upgradation of 50,000 km of existing rural roads, based on a prescribed criterion, in order to consolidate the rural road network and improve its overall efficiency.

As per the programme guidelines, a state/ union territory can join PMGSY II only after 100 per cent of new connectivity and 75 per cent of upgradation works under PMGSY I have been awarded. As of January 2019, 14 states – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh – had transitioned to PMGSY II. Other states are expected to move to the second stage by the end of 2018-19. Till January 2019, a total of 30,373 km of road length had been sanctioned while 22,760 km has already been completed under PMGSY II. The targeted date of completion for the second phase of the programme is March 2020.

Funding mechanism

In May 2016, the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) in consultation with the Ministry of Finance formulated an action plan to fast-track PMGSY implementation through enhanced financial allocation to the states along with a modified funding pattern. Accordingly, the fund sharing pattern of the PMGSY is in the ratio of 60:40 between the central and state governments for all states except the eight north-eastern and three Himalayan states (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), for which it is 90:10.

The World Bank is also assisting in the construction and upgradation of roads under the Rural Roads Projects (RRP) as part of the PMGSY. A loan agreement worth $1,400 million was signed between the central government and the World Bank on January 14, 2011. It was effective from February 18, 2011 and extended up to April 2018. Around 26,212 km of roads have been completed under the RRP across eight states. Further, the MoRD availed of an additional financing of $500 million from the World Bank in May 2018. The loan will facilitate upgradation of around 11,000 km of rural roads. So far, sanctions have been accorded for the development of 1,531 km of roads in Uttarakhand and 996 km of roads in Meghalaya. In addition, Tamil Nadu and Meghalaya will also witness the construction of 100 km and 112 km of green and climate-resilient roads respectively. The project period is till December 2020.

Green initiatives

In order to encourage the use of locally available materials and green technologies, guidelines were issued by the ministry, under which the state governments are required to propose a minimum 15 per cent of total length of annual projects under new technologies such as cement stabilisation, lime stabilisation, cold mix, waste plastics, cell-filled concrete, panelled cement concrete pavements, fly ash, etc.

Till November 2018, around 21,562 km of roads have been constructed using green technologies. Of these, waste plastic has been the most widely used for construction of PMGSY roads with a share of 45.6 per cent. It is followed by cold mix (29.06 per cent) and nanotechnology (3.02 per cent). State-wise, Madhya Pradesh has emerged as the front runner in the adoption of green technologies with 5,031 km constructed from waste plastic. It is followed by Odisha which has deployed cold mix to construct 2,095 km of rural roads.

Maintenance, monitoring and feedback

Maintenance of rural roads constructed under the PMGSY is the responsibility of the state government. All road works are covered by initial five-year maintenance contracts to be entered into along with the construction contract, with the same contractor, as per the standard bidding document. The MoRD has extended support to states in the maintenance management of rural roads. So far 26 states have notified rural road maintenance policies for maintenance management of all categories of rural roads in a systematic manner.

The ministry has also been constantly reviewing the progress of the programme in the states. The PMGSY has an inbuilt framework of quality management, which is a combination of in-house quality control measures and independent verification at the state and national levels. Based on the periodic monitoring of road quality under the three-tier mechanism, corrective measures, wherever necessary, are taken by the state governments. At present, 103 national quality monitors (NQMs) and 776 state quality monitors (SQMs) are in place. In 2018-19 (till November 2018), 22,396 inspections by SQMs and 5,513 inspections by NQMs were carried out. A maintenance software, e-Marg, has also been introduced for better monitoring of maintenance works.

For the effective monitoring of roads constructed under the PMGSY, an online management, monitoring and accounting system has also been developed. Further, the government has decided to use geoinformatics using satellite imagery, on a real-time basis, to verify the progress of implementation of the progamme as reported electronically by the states.

In order to enhance transparency and accountability, a citizen feedback system has been put in place through the Meri Sadak mobile application. Further, a 100 per cent electronic tendering process has also been introduced.

Challenges faced

The implementation of the PMGSY has been lagging behind in some states. As of February 2019, a total of 19,607 road works, spanning around 53,234 km, have been pending for more than a year. Assam has the highest number of pending works, followed by Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. The slow progress of the programme in these states can be attributed to the short working season, scarcity of construction material, difficult terrain, remote habitations, adverse weather conditions and inadequate execution and contracting capacity. However, the MoRD has taken a number of initiatives to meet the above challenges faced by the states. These include engagement of central public sector undertakings to augment execution capacity and undertaking contractor’s outreach programmes to attract contractors in the implementation of the programme.

The way forward and next steps for PMGSY III

The MoRD aims to consolidate and strengthen major link routes connecting habitations to agricultural and rural markets, higher secondary schools and hospitals under PMGSY III. Accordingly, a proposal for this has been prepared. While the enhanced budgetary allocation certainly augurs well for the rural roads segment, whether PMGSY I and II achieve their targeted completion deadlines of March 2019 and March 2020, respectively, remains to be seen.

Liya Rashid

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