In his budget speech, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said “construction of rural roads has been tripled” under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
New Delhi: In the Narendra Modi-led government’s last budget, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal referred to how times had changed, with villages now connected with pucca roads. However, village-level government data shows there is still a long way to go.
Detailed data available with the rural development ministry shows a sizeable proportion of villages — over a quarter — is yet to be connected through all-weather roads.
Data collected for around 5.7 lakh villages across states and union territories shows over 51 per cent of villages with a population of less than 250, 33 per cent of villages with a population between 250 and 500 people, and 19 per cent of villages with a population of above 500 are not connected to all-weather roads.
Overall, 26.4 per cent of the villages for which data is available are not connected to pucca roads.
Talking about the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and allotting it Rs 19,000 crore for fiscal year 2019-20, Goyal had said Friday that “construction of rural roads has been tripled” under the scheme.
“There was time when a child used to reach school after walking on a foot trail, today the situation has changed and a bus can reach her/his village,” the minister added.
The PMGSY, launched in 2000 by the Atal Bihari government, aims to provide all-weather access to unconnected habitations in rural areas.
In plain areas, habitations with a population of 500 and above are eligible for the scheme, and, in hilly/difficult regions, the population threshold has been fixed at 250.
Also read: Budget 2019: Where the government will earn and spend its rupee
What the data says
The rural development ministry data, which covers 5,68,664 villages, divides settlements into the three aforementioned population segments — less than 250, between 250 and 500, and above 500. Essentially, more than half the villages in the first category, one-third in the second category, and a little less than a fifth in the third category are not connected to pucca roads.
The data was collected as part of the government’s Mission Antyodaya.
While the PMGSY does not cover villages with a population of less than 250, it applies to all villages where the population is more than 500 and those villages in the 250-500 category that fall in hilly areas (northeast, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand), desert areas, Schedule V areas and tribal and backward districts.
However, villages and habitations (as defined for PMGSY purposes) are not necessarily interchangeable.
According to the rural development ministry’s data, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Manipur and Assam have the highest number of villages (over 35 per cent) with a population of over 500 that are unconnected to pucca roads. Kerala, Gujarat, Goa, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh have the lowest share of (less than 2 per cent) such villages.
In terms of villages with less than 250 people, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Rajasthan have the most unconnected villages, and in the 250-500 population category, northeastern states Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh fare among the worst.
Also read: Winners and Losers: Piyush Goyal’s 2019 interim budget