Real roads to the future

Discussion in 'Economy & Infrastructure' started by Yusuf, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    One of my colleagues co-authored a report that investigated the impact of highway construction on rural populations*. The specific research question was: how did the widening of National Highway 2 from two to four lanes affect the lives of people around the highway? They considered seven stretches spanning the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. The researchers identified a control zone and an influence zone around the highway. The influence zone lay within five kilometres of the highway on either side; this is a distance that can be covered in 30 minutes on a cycle and an hour on foot. The control zone was defined to be the area beyond five kilometres but within seven kilometres. Essentially, the control zone starts where the influence of the highway falls off sharply. The research on this project was carried out mainly by Ramprasad Sengupta (currently my colleague at the India Development Foundation) and Dipankar Coondoo (my erstwhile colleague at the Indian Statistical Institute).

    What amazes me is the lack of discussion and debate on this study among academics and in policy circles - while, every day, I am bombarded with questions about my views on the The Economist-Amartya Sen-Jagdish Bhagwati debate that has gone viral in these very same circles. It is worth looking at the rigour with which this study was carried out, and the depth of the methodology employed to tackle the difficulties such a study entails. We will be doing us a lot of good if we concentrated more on what concerns us directly rather than worrying about whose academic reputation is more at stake on a topic that is really tangential, in many ways, to what the country is facing.


    So what are the major findings of the mentioned study? Proximity to a better highway has a positive relationship with the density of population, proportion of below-poverty line households (yes, positive), share of motorised transport, employment in non-farm activities, proportion of pucca and semi-pucca houses, enrolment of students, including girls, in schools and, of course, the price of land. All of these results were worked out for the influence zone relative to the control zone. For example, the proportion of workers in non-farm activities in villages in the influence zone increased much more after the widening of the highways when compared to the control zone. Indeed, there are many sociologists and human geographers who have been mapping this change taking place in villages. Here is a rigorous study that corroborates this.

    These results have obvious implications for the never-ending debate about the impact of reforms in India. One of the findings is that poverty in villages around the highway seems to have increased. This has led many observers to conclude that reforms, and that includes building of new and better highways, have worsened poverty. Many politicians, from all parties, have often interpreted this as evidence that the poor have become poorer after the reforms. In fact, the study does show that disparities in the influence zone have increased with the building of the highway. However, if one were to look at the incomes of the poor between the influence and the control zone, the poor in the influence zone are better off than those in the control zone. How has this happened? The improved, non-farm job opportunities in closer proximity to highways have increased the density of population in the nearby villages. The study shows that the relatively poor tend to stay closer to highways because of better non-farm job prospects (they are mostly landless in any case) and ease in commuting. This is corroborated by recent studies on migration that show there is a huge increase in village-to-village migration quite independent of the village-to-city migration that people usually talk about.

    The study also does a detailed analysis of other factors that may have implications for the well-being of a household. Widening of the highway improves transport (for example, per capita trips made) and mobility of villagers; the proportion and amount of non-agricultural income in total income; the ownership of assets; and access to social infrastructure like health facilities, educational institutions and other private and public amenities. This last is very important. The highway does not only enable private businesses to engage with villagers; it also facilitates the reach of public service delivery.

    The study makes an important observation. Contrary to popular belief that a national highway primarily facilitates intercity travel and transport of goods (and, hence, is of no significance to the poor villagers), it is also an important and integral part of the road network that serves rural areas. In the study, almost half the trips originating in the villages involved the use of the widened highway. The policy implication is immediate. The highway network has to be improved upon with feeder roads to surrounding villages, service roads along the highways for slow-moving vehicles, pedestrian crossings from one side to the other, and so on.

    If we really want to debate the reforms, we should be looking at changes happening on the ground, and try to see whether the changes are desirable or not. Instead, we spend too much time debating on aggregates that are slow to move in India because of the country's size, the magnitude of its problems and the diversity of its regions and population groups. A lot of research can and should be done. Of course, policy makers and others will have to want to look at the output from such research. Otherwise, all the energy that has been generated by the reform process will be dissipated by unnecessary debates and misplaced focus.

    http://m.business-standard.com/wapnew/storypage_content.php
     
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  3. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    Good study and relevent findings
     
  4. SamwiseTheBrave

    SamwiseTheBrave Regular Member

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    excellent points backed up by data and good research study - we need more such studies on india, for india and by indians (i say the last since it`ll help absorb the findings better over a longer time into the national discourse). When you read any of the stories/plays/poems of early Europe , you hear the word "Kingsroad" which meant that people using this road were afforded protection by the King - this is how vital and important national highways and roads are considered to be !
     
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  5. VIP

    VIP Ultra Nationalist Senior Member

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    That's the reason why Modi has developed roads in Gujarat the most. Even his critics admit this openly that Gujarat has better road than other states and I don't have to remind World Bank's analysis. May be some people still think Modi that he fools people en mass but mind you, you can never fool Gujjus (especially Ahmedabadi) very easily. @iNDiAN.96 @aragon

    Infrastructure development is the key of success.

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using Tapatalk 4 Beta
     
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  6. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    @Yusuf I am not able to get the link. could you repost it.
     
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  7. iNDiAN.96

    iNDiAN.96 Nationalist Senior Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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