National Level Advocacy Workshop on Rural Roads Maintenance Policy

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), was launched as a special intervention of the Government of India with the broad objective of achieving poverty reduction. The ILO partnered with the National Rural Roads Development Agency (NRRDA) in producing guidelines on maintenance policy and maintenance management of rural roads.

Rural roads in India comprise nearly 80 per cent of the total road network. Roads provide accessibility and in rural areas and it especially helps in boosting agricultural economic activity, create access to improved health services, and schools and other economic opportunities.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), was launched as a special intervention of the Government of India with the broad objective of achieving poverty reduction. The scheme aims to provide good quality all-weather single connectivity roads to every eligible habitation. The benefits in terms of social and economic development from an improved network can only be sustained if these assets are properly maintained on a regular basis.

The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India, in partnership with state governments have endeavored to support maintenance management of the rural roads. As a result a large number of states today have formulated and notified state specific policy on maintenance of rural roads. Addressing the gathering, Minister of MoRD, Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water & Sanitation, Narendra Singh Tomar said, “Just like without education life is incomplete, similarly without proper roads economic possibilities and livelihood opportunities can be severely stunted. Roads are critical to the development of a nation.
If there is a political will then nothing is impossible.” The minister also highlighted the importance of the use of modern technology in road maintenance and that how it can result in enhanced longevity of the roads. He spoke highly of ILO’s contribution in sensitizing the state governments in using modern technology in road maintenance.

Rajesh Bhushan, Joint-secretary, National Rural Roads Development Agency (NRRDA) congratulated the success of PMGSY programme and ILO’s contribution. He said, “Under PMGSY the road network in rural areas has expanded exponentially. In the last 15 years the management procedure and processes of rural roads that PMGSY programme has established has been of gold standard. What more other governmental rural road schemes too have adopted the PMGSY strategy.” He informed that NRRDA recently undertook an analysis of last 15 years of rural roads and it prepared an asset base of these roads. He said, “The rate of depreciation every year of rural roads is roughly five per cent which translates to a loss of 21000 crore rupees. Should we allow this kind of colossal resource loss due to no or low maintenance of rural roads? Absolutely not.”

Amarjeet Sinha, Secretary, Department of Rural Development, MORD, spoke about the use of waste in creating strong, robust road network. He spoke about Indore and how the city has used plastic waste to also create strong roads. Many other states, he said, have used fly ash and geo-textiles to create roads. “We must strive to use green technology, about 15 per cent, in the construction of rural roads. It will help us reduce costs. Maintenance cost in the five-ten years will reduce in the long-term if we opt for such technologies and it will pave the way for a sustainable road policy.” He also added that in 2014-2016, 2600 km of roads have been constructed with the use of green technology. Also he added that now PMGSY, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) division and rural road division, together, have prepared a strategy for NREGA. This strategy draws heavily from the best practices of PMGSY.

Ram Kirpal Yadav, Minister of State, Rural Development said, “Seventy per cent of India’s population continues to live in rural areas and it is essential that if we want to see real development then we have to focus on our rural road network. Till date, PMGSY has made huge changes in the lives of rural people. Five lakh km of roads have been constructed so far with an investment worth 1,70,000 crore rupees. This is a huge investment and if don’t take care of our rural roads then all this money will simply go to waste.” He also congratulated the progress made by states such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, and Karnataka who had the target to develop and maintain rural roads till 2019 but have already met this timeline in 2016. However, on the other hand he expressed deep concern about states that haven’t even met their targets in the first phase of PMGSY.

Panudda Boonpala, Director, ILO, DWT for South Asia and Country Office for India closed the event by speaking about the successes of PMGSY, and of the positive technical cooperation between ILO and MORD.

Two presentations were made during the event, one on Need for Maintenance Policy and its Implementation by DP Gupta, and second on Good Practices in States and Lessons Learnt. There were principal secretaries of various states, ministers, and engineers who interacted with the MORD officials on the maintenance issue.