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Fund paucity halts repair of PMGSY roads

As many as 40% of roads have completed their design life and require repair/renewal. But funds are elusive.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 23, 2020, 12.27 PM IST
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Agencies
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PMGSY is a key component of the country’s road network.
NEW DELHI: Two decades after the NDA-1 under Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) to provide all-weather roads to India’s villages, the NDA-2 is looking at a road maintenance crisis in the flagship mission.

While more than 5.50 lakh km of road network has been laid connecting 1,58,980 habitations under the PMGSY so far, reduced funding to the scheme since 2015 has begun to tell on the road condition.

The situation is pressing as 70% PMGSY roads are now out of the defect liability period (DLP) that requires the contractor to maintain and repair roads for five years after construction. About 40% of the roads have also completed 10 years of their design life, requiring repair and renewal.

It is estimated that only 14% of the roads have been relaid so far.

While states are responsible for road maintenance, decreased central funding since 2015 and Panchayat-level fund develoution have pushed the road repair work to a low priority agenda in several states. A worried rural development ministry has now asked the 15th Finance Commission for a separate grant to prevent deterioration of the road infrastructure. The ministry has estimated that Rs 75,927 crore would be required across states over the next five years to maintain the PMGSY road network. Ministry officials also met members of the commission on Monday on the issue, flagging the need for allocation extra funds dedicated to PMGSY road maintenance.

PMGSY is a key component of the country’s road network. Rural roads form 70% of the country’s road network and PMGSY roads comprise 22% of this.

It is gathered that the Finance Commission is seriously looking at a special and separate ‘maintenance grant’ to ensure the rural road network stays in good condition.
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This would be a departure from the approach of the 14th Finance Commission which desisted from ‘sector-specific’ grants and devolved funds directly to Panchayats and left maintenance works to their discretion. The latter has generally shown preference to new works rather than spending money on maintaining existing roads.

The rural development ministry has said implication of this change has been “severely felt” in backward states in particular, as they already had a backlog of unconnected habitations. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are among states which will require the highest maintenance grants, as per the ministry’s assessment.

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