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New Roads are Transforming Life in Rural India
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In 2000, about 40 percent of India’s 825,000 villages lacked all-weather roads. The existing network of some 2.7 million km of rural roads suffered from years of neglect. The Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Program was launched by the Indian Government in 2000 to connect all villages with more than 500 people—or about 180,000 villages. Under the program, some 375,000 km of new roads are being constructed and another 372,000 km improved at an estimated cost of US$34 billion.

In 2008, the Vodafone Group Plc who is India’s second-biggest mobile-phone operator by subscribers put up a tower in the area. Once the road came two years later, farmers could easily get to town to buy seeds and fertilizer. Before the road was built, farmers mostly grew rice and rains flooded the low-lying areas.

  
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Neelkanth Mishra, head of Indian equity strategy at Credit Suisse Group AG who co-wrote a March report on rural development, reported that “These once-in-a-lifetime changes are happening at the bottom of the pyramid due to a dramatic improvement in roads and phones.”

Economists say that the rural roads network can usher in all round prosperity without putting too much strain on the exchequer. Right now, the government policy is to set up a primary school within a 1 km radius of a village. India has 5.5 lakh villages, some with a population of only 200.

Bloomberg reports that, Rural phone connections have risen about 30-fold to 339 million by the end of last year from 12.3 million in 2004, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Literacy in agrarian areas improved twice as much as in urban centers in the decade to 2011, with the rate of those who can read and write rising to 69 percent in 2011 from 59 percent in 2001, census estimates show.

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Summary:

In 2000, about 40 percent of India’s 825,000 villages lacked all-weather roads. The existing network of some 2.7 million km of rural roads suffered from years of neglect. Economists say that the new program to build more rural roads can usher in all round prosperity without putting too much strain on the exchequer.



Image Credit: www.bloomberg.com



 

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