The Centre plans a comprehensive rural transport system to complement two decades of building a web of roads in the countryside through an ambitious scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY).
The new scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Parivahan Yojna (PMGPY), is crafted to improve and regulate transportation facilities in villages, and also enhance job opportunities for the rural youth — a key focus area for the Narendra Modi government.
It includes a first-time plan to introduce viability gap funding (VGF) or the government sharing a part of the cost for public vehicles.
“Our pilot project may start with Rs 1,400 crore as VGF,” a senior rural development official said last week.
The VGF will be used as an incentive to ensure certain types of vehicles are used for local transportation and to check overloading. “The new scheme will address unsafe, poorly regulated, informal and unorganised rural transport services,” a concept paper prepared by the rural development ministry says.
The Centre and state governments will try to “leverage the PMGSY rural network through organised, efficient and affordable public transport”, the paper says.
Besides, the government hopes the transport scheme will provide new employment opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled rural youth.
This will be in line with Modi’s thrust as he apparently maintains at all meetings with the ministry that jobs should be the focus of rural schemes.
A recent report of a group of secretaries on innovative budgeting proposed to make employment potential the benchmark for any government scheme.
The rural road scheme, the backbone of the transport programme, is also set to get extra muscle in the 2016-17 budget. The annual funding, pegged at around Rs 17,000 crore, is likely to see almost a 40% jump in the next few years, underlining the Centre’s thrust to improve connectivity.
The PMGSY is handled entirely by the rural development ministry.
Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, who started the first model project in Maharashtra, said: “The PMGSY had always enjoyed backing of the government cutting across political lines.”