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BRIEF March 16, 2022

Connecting villages through rural roads in India

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Since 2001, India has been constructing all-weather roads and upgrading old ones in rural areas across the country
  • The World Bank has invested $2.1 billion in the country’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, directly benefitting almost 19,000 habitations through 48,000 km of village roads.
  • These roads have helped boost rural incomes, opened up new livelihood opportunities, and made it easier to access markets, hospitals and schools.

Anita Saini teaches science to secondary school students in the small town of Baggad in Jhunjhunu district in India’s desert state of Rajasthan. On Karva Chauth, the day that many married Hindu women traditionally fast for a long life for their husbands, Anita was riding her scooter to school five km away from her home. Wearing a peach silk saree for this special day of fasting, she said that the road, built in 2014, had provided her with a new sense of freedom and purpose. “When there was no road, there were no options. Women like me had to stay home.”

Anita belongs to one of the 171,000 habitations that have benefitted from India’s $46-billion rural roads program – the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) – which, since 2001, has been constructing all-weather roads and upgrading old ones in rural areas across the country.

Across the country, the construction and upgrading of rural roads has put once-nondescript villages on the map of the country. They have helped boost family incomes, opened up new opportunities for livelihood and given residents easier access to markets, hospitals and schools, along with a variety of avenues for entertainment.


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Education and health services closer home 

Village roads have brought schools closer for boys and girls. Pregnant women and sick people can access healthcare services that now come to their doorstep. 

Access to health and education in Rajasthan

In the low-literacy state of Rajasthan, rural roads have enabled school buses to reach far-flung villages, making it easier for children to get to school. Every child is now enrolled in school and many of the youth are pursuing higher studies in towns nearby. Pre-school children too have benefitted. The women who look after the anganwadi centers (a type of rural childcare centre in India) can get to work more easily, enabling them to provide hot meals to the little ones in the afternoons and read or sing songs with them.

Health care is also within easier reach. Earlier the sick had to be carried on makeshift beds or on camel carts on rutted dirt roads to the nearest health facility. Now, during an emergency, ambulances can reach right up to village homes to take pregnant women and the elderly to hospitals nearby.

In the parched and rocky terrain of Rajasthan, more and more people in small towns now own motorcycles and pick-up vans, enabling them to take up new livelihood opportunities in towns nearby. Greater access to resources has translated into visible changes such as many more brick houses with toilet facilities.


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Rural roads lead to path of prosperity 

Villagers are travelling to other towns and big cities for newer livelihood opportunities. Ease of access to newer markets have helped boost family incomes. 

Increased Access to Markets in Meghalaya

In the remote north-eastern state of Meghalaya, the hilly terrain coupled with almost six months of heavy rain made life difficult, especially for rural people. In Rongsa village in the East Garo Hills, where banana, cashew, betelnut and rice cultivation are the primary sources of livelihood, a new road has made it possible for farmers to take their produce to Daranggiri, Asia’s largest banana market 10 km away on the Assam-Meghalaya border.

Panseng M. Momin, a farmer, says that earlier he needed to walk for hours with the bananas hoisted on his back to reach the market. He could only carry four or five bunches each time. Now a pick-up van transports his entire produce of 300-400 bundles, doubling his weekly income to Rs 1,000-2,000.

Alternative Livelihoods

In Jharkhand, roads have opened up new livelihood opportunities for rural youth who were earlier dependent on an erratic agriculture. Young men like Kartik Mohato and Lal Mohan Mohato, alongwith some 25-30 men from their village, now go on motorcycles and bicycles, or take the bus to work as daily wagers in factories in Jamshedpur 60 kms away.

“When we only had a dirt road in our village, it would become unusable during the rains,” says he used to travel by cycle he says. He had to carry his cycle on their shoulders when the dirt road became slushy with rain water.


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Village roads bring women freedom and choice

More women and girls in villages are going to schools, accessing healthcare facilities and becoming financially independent. 

Community Participation

One of the project’s most important innovations is the promotion of people’s participation at every stage of road construction, from planning to monitoring and audit.

The World Bank has introduced a ‘Transect Walk’ approach where local community representatives are consulted to identify where a road should be built in their area. This unique feature brings transparency into the process of planning and construction and promotes the inclusion of those affected by the project.

Further, under the Bank funding, the project has piloted adoption of innovative contracts that engage local community and women self-help groups for maintenance of rural roads. This has shown positive results in community engagement especially in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Meghalaya. Many other states are now scaling up this pilot.

To ensure greater transparency, a web-based monitoring and evaluation system provides a centralized database which gives detailed information on all PMGSY projects, their procurement status, finances and progress in construction. It also allows for managers to better plan and implement their work, while ensuring compliance with the World Bank's safeguard standards.

World Bank Support

In order to support the government’s vision to build rural infrastructure, improve livelihoods, and bring access to health and education to the remotest corners of the country, the World Bank has so far invested $2.1 billion under the Rural Roads Project.

The project focused on connecting villages in the nine states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Tripura and Punjab and funded the construction of 48,000 km of village roads, directly benefiting almost 19,000 habitations.

LEARN MORE 

Projects

Rural Roads Projects |  PMGSY Rural Roads Project

Project Appraisal Documents

Rural Roads Projects |  PMGSY Rural Roads Project |  Additional Financial for PMGSY Rural Roads Project

Implementation Completion and Results Reports

Rural Roads Projects |  PMGSY Rural Roads Project and Additional Financing

Knowledge Products

Guidelines for the Environmentally Optimized Design of Low Volume Roads, The World Bank, KGGP, Australian DFAT |  Promoting the Use of Green Construction Materials in Low Volume Roads in India, The World Bank KGGTF

Impact Evaluation

The Road to Opportunities in Rural India: The Economic and Social Impacts of PMGSY |  Assessment of PMGSY |  Assessment Report of PMGSY – Appendix – 171565 |  Rural Road Development in India: An Assessment of Distribution of PMGSY Project Benefits in Three States by Gender and Ascribed Social Groups |  Rural Roads and Local Economic Development


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Village roads increase access for girls to school

Girls like Akansha are now able to continue their studies and even pursue higher education in another town.    

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Roads open pathways to better jobs 

For Budhram, the road to his village has led to higher income closer to home. 

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In rural Jharkhand the youth dream big 

Noni Mahato aims to become a government employee and supports this dream by giving tuition to little children. 

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Roads help women become independent in remote parts of India 

Sengrish runs a shop on a fairly busy road near her village that enables her to contribute financially towards her family. 

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Roads help increase incomes for villagers 

Mahender ferries children to school in his village while earlier he drove a truck that took him far from home. 

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Villagers see businesses expand because of roads 

Saini saw his income grow manifold when he started using a motorcycle to transport and sell milk.