The Benefits of Rural Roads: Enhancing Income Opportunities for the Rural Poor
Over the years, rural road development task in India has picked up at a fast pace 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 as national highways. In fact, the 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 boost rural as well as overall economic growth of the country. Thus, rural roads form the backbone of the country’s growth. Particularly, rural roads are responsible for enhancing income opportunities for the rural poor. How? Read on to know this...
1. Offers better transportation facilities: Rural roads contribute significantly by creating linkages, thus increasing the opportunities to access goods and services located in nearby villages or major towns/markets. This means that through the improved transportation services, rural roads can lead to improved access to market centres for the rural producers and ensure better availability of inputs and raw materials at reduced prices which can highly impact the income opportunities of the rural poor. Simply put, if the rural producers are able to travel to the markets to sell their produce or buy raw materials for enhancing production, then they can earn a good amount of money and this can increase their income considerably.
2. Boosts agricultural activities and productivity: Rural roads are essential for sustaining agricultural development also. A good network of rural roads can provide a boost to the agricultural activities by making water, seeds and other raw materials needed for farming reach in time to the farmer. This can have a huge impact on the quality of agricultural produce and if that is good, then farmers can earn better by selling such a good produce in the market. This can result in increased earnings. Improvement in agricultural productivity can not only reduce rural poverty directly by increasing income of poor households but it can also cause decline in poverty indirectly by raising agricultural wages and lowering food prices.
3. Ensures diversification of agricultural activities: Rural road network can also favour growth of cash crops and commercialisation of agricultural activities. By this, it means that rural people can employ latest methods of farming and increase their production for selling them in the market.
4. Improves mobility and saves time: Presence of roads in rural areas increase the mobility of labour and materials, thus increasing the domain of rural livelihood beyond the rural production boundary. Typically, rural roads can ensure shorter travel time and the time saved this way can help the rural poor to be more productive and generate increased incomes. The time saved can be used for doing other off-farm jobs as well where farmers can earn some extra income. Thus, in rural areas, roads give a blending of non-farm economic activities along with farm activities and such diversification positively impacts the living conditions of the rural mass.
5. Makes way for more livelihood opportunities: Rural roads can also lead to changes in income sources as they can enhance non-agriculture income opportunities. Simply put, better connectivity through better roads in the rural areas can enhance off-farm employment opportunities too as masses can move freely from one place to another. Particularly, women, labourers and small contractors can benefit from the improved mobility and move out of the villages to the nearest employment centres and earn a better income.
6. Gives access to education: Improved road connectivity can also enhance access of rural masses to education services. They can travel to nearest towns and cities and get better and higher education which can open better employment opportunities for them. Through this way, rural poor can earn a better living for their family.
7. Offers socio-economic benefits: The socio-economic benefit of rural road improvement and construction is that they can increase the asset value of the rural people and thus facilitates trade and business opportunities.
The above points clearly show that rural connectivity is central to the alleviation of rural poverty and has a close synergy with rural livelihood outcomes such as increased incomes (e.g., tradable agricultural surplus, material goods and cash).
It goes without saying that rural roads are a key component of rural development and particularly in India, they assume great importance where still 800 million people live in rural areas. Realising the fact that rural roads can promote access to economic and social services, generate increased agricultural incomes and productive employment opportunities and reduce poverty in the country, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched by the government in the year 2000. The main aim of the program was to provide connectivity to unconnected 65000 habitations through construction of all-weather roads. Tracking the success on the PMGSY front, then in 2016-17, the government was able to construct 47,500 kilometres of rural roads. Earlier this year, government preponed the first phase of PMGSY from 2022 to 2019.
All in all, the government has been taking various proactive steps to boost rural roads as they play a very important role in enhancing income opportunities for the rural poor followed by other benefits. So, while construction of the national and state highways is important, it is equally important to develop rural roads in the country. It is for the same reason that the Indian government has increased its investments in the rural road development programs over the years. This increased focus of the government on rural roads has given a boost to the road construction equipment industry in the country. Particularly, the motor grader segment in road construction equipment industry is set to see a new high and indigenous manufacturers of motor graders like Mahindra Construction Equipment with its RoadMaster G75 that is made in India for Indian roads is completely ready to take on this growing demand for rural roads.