New Delhi: The Prime Minister promised on 23 May to spend nearly $11 billion to improve rural roads as he slammed corruption in the construction sector.
The government has prepared a two-year plan “to provide all-weather rural road connectivity to 66,000 villages” of India’s 640,000 villages at a cost of Rs480 billion ($10.7 billion),” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
Observing that corruption in road construction projects in the past “has spread like cancer”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on 23 May there was need for “quality benchmarks and quality assurance” for rural roads as in the case of National Highways.
“A major reason for poor quality roads is corruption and the lack of quality assurance,” he said inaugurating a national conference on rural roads.
Singh said though crores of rupees were invested every year on road construction and maintenance, but with every monsoon the condition of the roads worsened.
Lauding the Rural Development Ministry’s initiative to address the issue, the Prime Minister hoped that both the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and Bharat Nirman could be implemented “without this affliction and in a transparent manner”.
Singh said there was need to evolve cost effective technologies for construction of rural roads -- technologies which are low cost and use locally available materials -- and also to make road construction as labour intensive as possible.
He described regular maintenance and upkeep of rural roads as necessary pre-condition for sustaining the benefits that roads bring to rural communities.
“While we make every effort to mobilise resources for launching new construction projects, we display a remarkably niggardly attitude when it comes to routine maintenance,” he said.
Improved connectivity “promotes access to economic and social services” and “facilitates the growth processes in our rural economy,” Singh said.
Besides slashing transportation costs, it would also “promote... creation of non-farm employment opportunities in our rural areas,” he aaded.
The village road development plans run parallel to a national highway project involving investment of Rs2.2 trillion (almost $50 billion).
India, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has been faulted by foreign investors for its creaky infrastructure including pot-holed roads.
The government has estimated India will need up to $150 billion in infrastructure investment up to 2015 to spur growth beyond the 8.5% logged in the past three years.