Compromises in the quality of roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana are unacceptable, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development said in a report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
The scheme, launched in 2000 by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, aims to construct all-weather roads in order to provide connectivity to rural areas.
In its report, the 31-member panel led by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Karunanidhi said that the members of the committee having seen the ground reality in their constituencies have repeatedly raised the “nagging issue of poor quality of roads”.
It said: “Instances are galore wherein the attention of the committee have been drawn towards the poor road materials used in the construction of roads at many places which are not able to sustain the rigours of weather and traffic volume even for one season and are washed away with the onset of monsoon.”
The panel also said that a mandatory provision under the scheme of setting up laboratories at the ground level for quality control has not been implemented at many places. The on-site laboratories are meant to assess the quality of roads and the raw material used for them.
The committee demanded that the laboratories be set up, and remarked that if the provision was violated, it could “derail the entire project”.
The committee also raised concern about the practice of subletting work to petty contractors, saying that it was hampering the quality of the construction.
“The petty contractors who come into the picture by way of multiple sub-lettings are sometimes not able to maintain the quality of construction and the goals of the scheme,” it said. “Such practices result in poorly constructed roads, devoid of standard protocols and have adverse effect on the project.”
The panel also said that there has been an inordinate delay in completing targets under the two phases of the scheme. While the first phase of the scheme was launched in 2000, the second one was launched in 2013.
The committee noted that work under both phases was supposed to have been completed by September 2022. However, it said that at the end of January, 96.24% of the targets under the first phase of the scheme and 97.01% under the second phase had been achieved.
“Needless to say that the sufferers of such delay are the rural populace of the country who wait with bated breath for the construction of roads so that they can also expect a rise in economic/developmental activities around their habitation for finding a better avenue of livelihood generation,” it added.
The committee directed the Union Rural Development Ministry to complete the two phases on “war footing”.