As per the statistics, India has a road network of over 5,472,144 kilometres (as on March 31, 2015). In future, the target of the government is to considerably improve the road infrastructure and build more national and state highways. However, it is to be noted that the national highways form only a mere fraction of the total road network in India and out of the total road network, nearly 70.23 per cent are the rural roads (as on March 2016).

As per the road statistics published by central government for the year 2012-13, the national highways make up just 1.51 km of every 100 km of India’s road network, state highways cover 3.24 km and rural roads span 60.39 km of every 100 km. The sad part is that most of the rural roads in the country are in bad shape i.e., they are of poor quality, potholed and unable to withstand the loads of heavy farm equipment, thereby, affecting the rural population’s quality of life and ability of the farmers to transport their produce to the market. These roads are also very far from the all-season good quality highways making the economic resource flow slow and leading to high logistics costs.

However, gradually, over the years, rural road development task has picked up very quickly and government is increasingly focussing on rural roads. This is because there are various economic benefits offered by the rural roads that make them equally important than national highways. These rural roads are often considered to be the lifeline for rural communities. They play an important role in poverty alleviation in rural areas, enable transportation of men, material and goods, lead to diversification of agricultural activities and livelihood opportunities and boost rural as well as overall economic growth of the country. Thus, rural roads form the backbone of the country’s growth.

Here is a detailed look at the benefits offered by the rural roads and why they are no less important than national highways...

1. Improvement in transportation services: Good rural road network can boost the transportation services between two villages, cities and states of the country. The improved transportation services can further lead to improved access to market centres for the rural producers, better availability of inputs and raw materials at reduced prices and improved mobility.

2. Give boost to the agricultural activities: Better network of rural roads can also provide a boost to the agricultural activities by making water, seeds and other raw materials needed for farming reach in time to the farmer.

3. Diversification of agricultural activities: Rural road network can lead to improved market access, favour growth of cash crops and commercialisation of agricultural activities for the better future of the farmers.

4. Diversification of livelihood opportunities: Better connectivity through better roads in the rural areas can enhance employment opportunities too in the non-agriculture sector as masses can move freely from one place to another.

5. Improved services: Improved road connectivity can enhance access of rural masses to education, health and financial services as well.

6. Increase in the outreach of the state: Improved rural roads can also ensure that the rural areas are served with better public services and all the benefits offered by the state reach the far-flung areas easily.

7. Alleviation of poverty: Last but not the least, rural roads can also help in eradicating poverty in rural areas as it provides better livelihood to people, better access to state, education and health services and other basic services.

The above pointers clearly state that emphasising on the development of rural roads can prove to be a catalyst to Indias goal of maintaining a good GDP growth rate and improving the well-being of millions of underprivileged and rural citizens. Realising this importance of rural roads, government has been taking some proactive steps to boost the rural road development task. In fact, for the development of rural roads, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in December 2000 by the Indian government to provide connectivity to unconnected rural habitations. Also, over the years, government has considerably increased the budget allocation for the development of rural roads. In the budget 2018-2019, rural roads saw an allocation of Rs 19,000 crore under PMGSY and this allocation was up by 12.42 per cent relative to last year’s grant of Rs 16,900 crore. Further, recently, India also signed a USD 500 million (Rs 3,371 crore) loan pact with World Bank to provide additional financing for PMGSY rural road projects to build 7,000 km of climate-resilient roads.

Well, with such developments planned by the government for rural road development in the country, the road construction equipment sector has all the reasons to smile. Particularly, backhoe loaders which are entry level equipment are touted to see good growth and are expected to constitute more than 40 per cent of the total demand in the rural road development activities.

If we talk about the indigenous backhoe loader manufacturers in the country, then the Mahindra Construction Equipment (MCE) with its flagship Mahindra EarthMaster backhoe loaders loaded with a plethora of features deserves a special mention. Even MCE’s Mahindra RoadMaster G75 motor grader should be noted here which is created to offer an affordable, un-compromised and mechanised grading solution for small and medium roads in India. It is an ideal grading machine for spreading, grading of earthwork in different types of roadwork across the nation.

In a nutshell

The rural roads have the potential to benefit the country on a larger scale. So, while construction of national and state highways is important, it is equally important to develop rural roads in the country especially when it can provide mobility and connectivity to more than 800 million people living in rural areas. It is for the same reason that the Indian government has been taking proactive steps for the development of rural roads these days and has increased its investments in the same. This is expected to definitely increase the demand of the construction equipment like motor graders and backhoe loaders in the country.