December, 2016

Durba Chattaraj at a Roundtable on Rural Roads: PMGSY for Poverty Alleviation and Development

Durba Chattaraj, who is the Director, Centre for Writing and Communications at Ashoka University will be a part of a roundtable, organised by the European Research Council (ERC) funded research project based at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, to discuss the PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) tomorrow.

PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) is a flagship programme of the Government of India for building rural roads. Over a decade and half since its launch in 2000 under the Vajpayee-led NDA government, the programme has connected over 113,000 habitations to the hard road network. About half a million kilometres of “well-engineered” or “all-weather” roads have been built at a cost of 20 billion US dollars. The programme’s target is to connect the 178,184 habitations identified as unconnected when the programme was launched. The present Modi-led government has set an accelerated goal of achieving this target by 2019, ahead of the initial timeline of 2022. Though the PMGSY has been conceived as time and target bound programme, this is being reconsidered. It is now likely to become a permanent scheme, aimed at connecting further habitations along with new maintenance programmes.Durba Chattaraj

Road building under the PMGSY has been conceived with goals of poverty alleviation and inclusive development. The premise is that increased connectivity and mobility leads to improved access to markets, and facilities such as hospitals and schools – which eventually help deliver ‘development.’ In spite of the scale of the programme, it has attracted little attention from scholars and critical thinkers.

There is little publicly-available research on the impact and consequences of this programme. Even the policy debates largely extoll the programme using intuitive notions and anecdotal evidence. The Roundtable seeks to gather different perspectives, surveying expert opinion and to begin a conversation about the fundamental premises and aims of PMGSY:

Why roads? Who benefits from them? What does a road do to a village? Do roads lead to poverty alleviation, ‘development’ or economic growth? If so, how and for who? What are the broader and future consequences of embedding petro-mobility in rural India? What is the relationship between mobility and growth?

The Roundtable will have participation from different stakeholder groups: scholars, policy thinkers, political leaders and activists.  The Roundtable will follow an open-ended conversation format; no formal paper presentations are expected. The event is restricted to invited participants and will be filmed for wider dissemination.

This roundtable is being organized as part of the European Research Council (ERC) funded research project based at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. The project, Roads and the politics of thought: Ethnographic approaches to infrastructure development in South Asia, is led by Professor Edward Simpson at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The India study component focuses on the PMGSY programme, and is being carried out by Dr Srinivas Chokkakula, based at CPR. The event will be hosted in partnership with the CAMP, Mumbai. Please write to Srinivas for any clarifications at srinivas@cprindia.org, or call +91 9582562172.

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