The UPA alliance came into power in 2004. The ‘Bharat Nirman’ is one of its ambitious plans which it has sought to implement. It focuses on the overall development of the lakhs of villages in India.
The plan was presented in the 2005-06 budget. A commitment of over Rs. 1, 74,000 crore was made towards Bharat Nirman with the objective of unleashing the growth potential of our villages. It was conceived as a business plan to be implemented over 4 years. It has six components, namely, irrigation, roads, water supply, housing, rural electrification and rural telecom connectivity.
Under the Irrigation Component, the target of creation of additional irrigation potential of 1 crore hectare in 4 years (2005-06 to 2008-09) was planned to be met largely through major and medium irrigation projects.
As part of the rural connectivity program, it was intended that by end of financial year 2008 – 2009, every village of over 1000 population, or over 500 in hilly and tribal areas, has an all-weather road. To achieve this target, 1, 46,185 km of road length was proposed to be constructed by 2009. This would benefit 66,802 unconnected eligible habitations in the country.
For the Rural water supply target, 55,067 Un-covered habitations and about 3.31 lakh slipped-back habitations are to be covered, and 2.17 lakh quality-affected habitations are to be addressed.
The rural housing program is implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development through the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) scheme, and it envisaged constructing 60 lakh houses over the next four years across the country, starting from 2005. It aspires to Provide electricity to 1, 25,000 villages by grid based supply or in remote and inaccessible areas through alternative technologies.
For Telecom connectivity, it set out to provide 66,822 revenue villages in the country with a Village Public Telephone (VPT). Remote and far flung villages will be provided through digital satellite phone terminals.
In the first two years of its implementation, according to data available,
39 % of the irrigation goal of 1 crore was completed.
80% of the rural drinking water supply target for the 2 years combined was achieved.
73% of the rural house building target of two years was achieved.
Only 30% of the villages promised electricity had been delivered.
Almost all villages had been provided telecom connectivity.
The rural connectivity progress was very dismal.
Given the progress made, we see that irrigation, electricity and roads still have not been delivered.
The research at IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington D.C) shows that investment in rural roads has the most potent effect on poverty alleviation. In that sense, investing in roads is a very good investment. But it is lagging behind tremendously.
It appears that government expenditure in rural areas is getting somewhat more welfare-oriented than providing growth impetus to agriculture and agro-industry.
Investments in agricultural R&D have the highest rates of return in terms of agricultural growth, but today the situation is that India hardly invests 0.5% of agricultural GDP into agriculture research. As a result, as much as almost 40% of vacancies for scientists in the agricultural research system remain vacant and the growth impetus to agriculture seems to be waning. Agriculture research needs more resources and commensurate institutional reforms, if it has to be a catalyst for making our agriculture globally competitive.
Similar is the case of irrigation which is lingering behind.
So, we hope these vital issues of roads and irrigation are addressed in the budget and also that the allocations to agricultural R & D be multiplied.