Rural road connectivity plays a pivotal role in a developing state like Assam. Access to job opportunities, education, health facilities and markets help in strengthening the economy of the working class people especially in rural sectors. It is essential for the socio-economic development of the state where most of the essential goods (e.g. food products, raw materials for industries etc.) are transported from the rural to the urban centres. Assam comprises 86% of rural population and 14% of urban population (Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Government of Assam, 2016). The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) launched in 2000 as a rural transport flagship program which aimed to achieve 100% road connectivity in rural areas of the country for all-weather roads.
In Assam, most of the rural roads are unpaved which creates difficulty for the citizens to use them especially during the rainy seasons. Assam Public Works Department (APWD) is responsible for the construction and maintenance of all types of roads, bridges, culverts in the state. According to the 2016-17 data (Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Government of Assam, 2016; Sarma 2020), total road length is 48724.54 KM with 44862 KM as surfaced road (blacktopped), 19316 KM as un-surfaced, 3862.54 Km NH and 2530 Km SHs.
Under the PMGSY launched in 2000, rural road connectivity has improved significantly. According to the data available in 2017, rural roads present in Assam is 37030 KM constructed by Assam Public Works Department (APWD) and the rest are panchayat and non PWD roads (approx. 6000Km) (Sarma 2020). Bridges, both timber and RCC (Reinforced Cement Concrete), are an integral part of the entire transport system for increasing the accessibility of rural areas. Due to the high maintenance cost involved , APWD has managed to reduce the number of timber bridges from 5450 in 2001 to 1433 as of March 2017 with an increase in RCC bridges from 309 in 2001 to 4563 in 2016 (Sarma 2020). Yet, the total paved roads for Assam is inadequate to support the existing increased population and the demand. Our question comes how we can cater the population with the existing infrastructure.
Public transportation scenario in Assam
Public transport for rural areas in Assam is essential as 86% of the population of the state resides in villages. The national average is 68.8%. In fact, Assam has a lower number of registered transport vehicles against the national average as estimated in the Road Transport Year Book 2014-2015. The Passenger Vehicle Density per 1000 people of the state is 0.59 against 1.19 of India’s average.
In Assam, the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) looks after the need of public transport. ASTC is a State Government undertaking which is mainly concerned with the movement of passenger traffic on nationalized routes in the state. However, ASTC’s share of vehicles is only 14% against 86% of the public transport which is owned by the private sector. Apart from buses, TATA magic, travelers plying on the road are also an important part of the system. Yet, the actual number of availability of such vehicles are not present.
ASTC in 2017 released a report to raise Assam’s vehicular density to national average. For this, as per their estimation, another 20,040 fleet of vehicles are required. With the recommendations from this report, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam launched the Chief Minister Gramin Parivahan Yojana to provide financial assistance to buy 833 fully built buses to different beneficiaries. The government hopes this scheme will help in boosting the economy, generating employment and accessing important facilities like higher education, specialized health facilities, industries, business hubs, employment generating agencies and market places for the rural population. It has proposed to cover 3,02,422 KMs per day, and accommodate 1,20,96,880 Passenger KMs daily.
ASTC also hopes to modernize its operations by inducting modern digital technology in its operation like E-Ticketing, Automatic Break-Down Management System, GPS Bus Tracking System and Integrated Public Transport Management System etc. Today ASTC has 135 stations and three Inter State Bus Terminals across the state with a fleet of more than 1100 buses with another fleet of more than 1200 Private Owned Buses operated under the banner of ASTC.
However, a sizable number of remote villages are still deprived of Public Road Transport Connectivity. People from such villages have to walk a long way before they can avail a Public Transport Vehicle. Routes need to be planned so as to provide connectivity to such remote villages to connect them to major road networks which in turn lead to Sub-Divisional or District Head Quarters.
The Problem of Road Traffic Accidents (RTA):
According to a study conducted in 2013 (Bhuyan and Ahmed, 2013), RTA rates were 35 RTAs/100kms/yr and 7 RTAs/1000 vehicles/yr. The study found that the single vehicle accident (self accident or non-collision type) comprises 42% of all the RTAs. 34% accidents are collision type and almost one quarter (24%) of accidents involve pedestrians.
The single vehicle accident is mostly caused by motorcycles (19%) and cars (17%). 3/4 of the pedestrian accidents are caused by cars (18%), followed by motorcycles (4.5%). 89% drivers are in the age group of 15-44 years, 15% have no licence and nobody used seat belts, 19% had consumed alcohol during the previous 24 hrs of driving.
RTAs were seen to marginally increase in the month of December and January but the number of injured (fatal and non fatal) increased in the month of December. The accident is maximum (50%) in twilight (light phase of night), followed by daylight and dark phase of light.
Table 1: Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) sourced from PWD
|Year||No. of Accidents||No. of Fatalities||No. of Injuries|
Road Map of the Project
Aims and Objectives
- Identify the causes of road traffic accidents in public transport
- Type of vehicles that are mostly involved in road traffic accidents in public transportation
- Increase accessibility and reduce road traffic accidents
- Policy development on the methodology defined for further interventions in other areas.
- Economic assessment of the integrated plan.