A 90% increase in school enrolment, especially girls, increase in female workforce and improved job opportunities — all this is a result of the extension of National Highway 2 (NH-2) to four lanes.
The extension — covering 995 km between Agra and Dhanbad — has led to an overall enhancement of living standards of the people who live within 5 km of the highway across 1,697 villages of UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, a World Bank-funded study has found.
The study was conducted by the Asian Institute of Transport Development (AITD) on the socio-economic impact of NHs on rural populations. The report was submitted to CP Joshi, road transport & highways minister.
Conducted in two phases, before the NH-2 was upgraded in 2003 and after completion in 2009, the study team, headed by AITD chairman KL Thapar found that one of the remarkable impacts of the highway upgradation was empowerment of womenfolk. “While school enrollment increased to 90% from 83%, female literacy rate increased to 52% from 39%. Of this, the female literacy rate among poor households was 42%. There was also a noticeable increase in female participation in the workforce,” said Thapar.
The findings also reveal that after the highway extension, there was increased mobility levels across all income classes.The proportion of people living below the poverty line (BPL) declined considerably for all stretches, except Auraiya in UP. For SCs and STs, the BPL proportion reduced considerably.
“This shows that in the mid-to long-term, rather than giving doles to poor, the government’s emphasis should be on improving infrastructure that will empower rural people. Mobility opens up access to opportunity,” said Prof Ramprasad Sengupta, of JNU, who was also part of the study team.