Any nation’s infrastructure serves as its foundation. It is still difficult to predict how expenditures in physical infrastructure would affect economic growth, particularly in rural areas. It is crucial to a country’s ability to foster economic progress, and India is no exception. When it comes to the nation’s rural infrastructure, it is essential for agro-industries, agriculture, and the reduction of rural poverty.
Rural roads, significant dams, and canal work for irrigation and drainage, rural housing, rural water supply, rural electrification, and rural telecommunication connectivity are typical components of rural infrastructure in the nation. Although much has been accomplished since India’s independence.
The country’s objective of delivering sustainable and inclusive rural development by expanding social safety, enhancing economic options, and creating child-centred industrial infrastructure is still distant from reality. Urban and rural growth must coexist, not one at the expense of the other. India’s youngsters must be encouraged to innovate in their rural communities.
Infrastructure Growth in Rural India
Rural Roads: Road density, which is a quantitative measure, and the proportion of surfaced roads to the total, which is a qualitative measure, are used to describe the state of the road infrastructure. At the national level, the number of kilometres of roads climbed from 57.04 in 1991 to 92.04 in 2008, while the percentage of paved roads increased from 42.4% in 1981 to 59.8% in 2011.
All states saw an improvement, but there were significant interstate differences in both measures over the years. Even though there are now less differences across states, the top and worst-performing states have highly different levels of the two metrics. When expressed in terms of the coefficient of variation (CV), interstate differences in road density and the percentage of paved roads were relatively considerable but gradually decreased over time.
Since that rural roads are crucial to rural development in India, this has important consequences for balanced regional development. According to a survey, rural roads make up 71.4% of the nation’s overall road network. As of March 31, 2019, their length had increased to 45,22,228 km, representing a 2.5% increase since 2021.
Telecommunications: Up until 2006, the level of teledensity was very low, but since then, there has been a notable improvement. Tele-density at the national level ranged from 0.18 in 1993 to 2.0 in 2006 to 39.9 in 2012, a substantial increase. Despite significant inter-state variances in teledensity in each year, a consistent trend can be seen throughout all the states. The variations grew until 2006 when they sharply decreased. When expressed in terms of CV, the inter-state differences in teledensity climbed from 89.07% in 1993 to 99.56% in 2006, before falling to 30.2% in 2012. The significant difference in teledensity between the best- and worst-performing states also reflects this. In the last few years, the Indian telecom industry has experienced remarkable growth. Next to China, India currently boasts the second-largest network in the world. At the end of August 2017, teledensity in urban regions was 173.72% compared to 56.87% in rural areas.
Housing and Power: The percentage of households with access to electricity, the percentage of electrified villages, and the percentage of households with pucca homes are used to quantify rural power and housing. In India, the percentage of rural households with access to electricity (referred to as the penetration rate of electricity) rose considerably from 14.7% in 1981 to 55.3% in 2011.
Nevertheless, only roughly 45% of rural homes had access to power, despite the fact that 94.5% of villages were electrified. The lack of purchasing power of the disconnected households or the inadequate or subpar supply could be the cause of this. The goal of providing electricity to every rural household appears to be a long way off. The states performed better in terms of village electrification than in terms of penetration rate, and between-state variation in the proportion of electrified villages was much smaller than for penetration rate between 1991 and 2013.
According to independent polls, the amount of time that rural communities have access to electricity has increased from an average of 12 hours in 2015–16 to 20.50 hours in 2020. In order to encourage competition, the government is supporting power exchanges. Most of the time, all purchasers in the nation pay the same rate for the power sold in the power exchanges. Power exchanges are being used more frequently to enhance the share of power purchases.
Sanitation and Water: The development of rural water and sanitation infrastructure was evaluated using the following metrics:
- The proportion of families with access to clean drinking water;
- The proportion of households with access to toilets on their property; and
- The percentage of gross cropped area (GCA) that is irrigated.
While access to clean drinking water and sanitary facilities is crucial for human survival, irrigation is crucial for agricultural output. The National Rural Sanitation Strategy’s Focus Points aim to raise rural areas’ general standards of living by promoting cleanliness, hygiene, and the elimination of open defecation. to improve rural sanitation infrastructure in order to achieve Swachh Bharat by October 2, 2019. By obtaining 55 liters per person per day as of February 2018, 74% of habitations are fully covered, while 22% are just slightly covered (receiving less than 55 litres per capita per day). By 2022, the Ministry hopes to provide piped water to 90% of rural families and tap connections to 80% of rural households.
Significance of Rural Infrastructure
In essence, infrastructure in rural areas has the ability to give people access to necessities that would enhance their quality of life. As an illustration, enhanced access to market centres, better availability of inputs and raw materials at lower rates, and improved mobility can all result from the improvement of rural infrastructure.
- Infrastructure for rural electrification: Basically, it meets the needs of agriculture, as well as those of other pursuits including irrigation pump sets, small and medium businesses, khadi and village industries, cold storage chains, healthcare, and education.
- A system of rural water supplies: It can help systems and sources become more sustainable, address the issue of poor water quality, and improve public health.
- Infrastructure for rural housing: It has the ability to raise people’s standards of living.
- Remote road infrastructure: It gives those who live in rural areas connectivity and mobility. Additionally, it gives agriculture a much-needed boost it needs by giving farmers access to water, seeds, and other raw materials. Rural roads that are more connected also increase non-agricultural work alternatives for the rural population, enhancing livelihood options. Rural roads also guarantee that improved public services are provided to rural communities and that all state advantages can easily reach remote locations. Even access to services for health and education might be provided by them.
Government programs for infrastructure in rural areas
- Results have been obtained from placing a high priority on the construction of rural infrastructure, which includes irrigation, rural connection, post-harvest infrastructure, and digital network. Currently, irrigation is used to irrigate around 49% of the nation’s net sown area, however, this percentage is stalling (with a compound annual growth rate of only 1.3% between FY 1996 and FY 2015). Between FY 1951 and FY 2017, the length of all rural roads in the nation expanded by more than 20 times, from 0.2 million km to 4.2 million km. 18 The Bharat Net initiative intends to create the greatest rural broadband infrastructure in the world by connecting every 2.5 lac Gram Panchayats in the nation, in addition to Electronic National Agriculture Markets (e-NAMs) under Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis.
- Government programs with a heavy emphasis on infrastructure include the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, AatmaNirbhar Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana- Gramin (PMAY-G), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), SP Mukherjee Rurban Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G), Jal Jeevan Mission.
- The Union Budget for FY2022 made significant statements for the development of rural infrastructure. The projections for capital spending were increased by the Budget by 34.5% over the prior year to ‘5.54 lac crore.
Investment in infrastructure is a key component of the transition to a more resilient and sustainable world and contributes significantly to economic growth. The public and private sectors, as well as the communities they serve, must reconsider how infrastructure is delivered in order to achieve these results. By having a favourable impact on agricultural output, real incomes, and employment in both the agriculture and non-agriculture sectors, rural infrastructures contribute to the reduction of poverty.
Lower levels of rural poverty have been linked to higher farm productivity, per capita farm revenue, and employment in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.
By supplying and facilitating the delivery of essential services like access to electricity, clean drinking water, and sanitary facilities, infrastructure also directly helps to the reduction of poverty. It is necessary to establish a national organisation to identify and rank initiatives for funding and oversight.