. Even though the country has vibrant democracy and policy interventions like right to information act, citizens lack awareness and necessary toolkit for exercising their rights through social audit.
Access to roads also increase agricultural income and employment opportunities. Overall, road plays an important role in poverty reduction.
Realizing the importance of roads, the Government of India in 2000 announced a massive Rural Roads Program, called Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), to provide good all-weather road connectivity to unconnected villages in the country.
The World Bank has been supporting PMGSY since inception. Citizen monitoring has been introduced in gradual manner in the project. Community members from the relevant geographical area are involved in conducting the monitoring of project to ensure satisfactory quality of the road. Community monitoring also gives users ownership of roads and helps the project progress as scheduled.
Citizen Monitoring of PMGSY roads has been entrusted to Public Affairs Centre (PAC), Bangalore. The objectives of the Citizen Monitoring program are:
- To train and enhance the capacity of the Gram Panchayat/rural citizenry/ community based organizations/ grassroots organizations with respect to rural connectivity through construction/ upgradation of rural roads.
- To encourage ownership of roads in the citizens by involving them directly in the process of monitoring of rural road construction.
- To monitor the quality of roads under construction or after completion of construction work using toolkits developed by Public Affair Centre in collaboration with Rasta or any other suitable means.
PAC has initiated Citizen Monitoring through the State Level Partner Organizations (SLPO) on pilot basis in three states, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Jharkhand. A total number of 70 roads have been identified for implementing the citizen monitoring in three states. This includes 30 roads in Rajasthan, 20 roads in Meghalaya and 20 in Jharkhand.
CUTS International, the SLPO for Rajasthan, has used a specifically designed toolkit for citizen monitoring in both the construction and maintenance processes of rural roads constructed under this project. The process adopted by them includes:
- Identifying roads for monitoring (both which are completed and under construction/on-going) in consultation with State Government
- Collecting bid documents (especially the bill of quantities) for each of the selected roads from the state agencies. This bid document was the basis of monitoring against which the norms/specifications were verified
- Identifying community members for monitoring
- Training for community members
- Phase-one monitoring/surveying of the selected roads (completed and under construction) by community members
- Sharing of findings of phase one with the concerned agencies of the Government for corrective action
- Phase two monitoring/surveying of selected roads (completed and under construction) by the community members after six months of the first phase and submitting the report to the concerned authorities
- Quality checks of community monitoring, data collection, data analysis and report writing
In Rajasthan, 15 completed roads and 15 roads under construction were selected for monitoring. A team of three ‘Community Monitors and Auditors Team (CMATs)’ who are users of targeted roads was selected for monitoring of each road. After two days intensive training, a road monitoring toolkit was given to the CMATs for measuring the camber, depth, size of the road and materials used. The monitoring formats for both completed and under construction roads were provided to the CMATs for recording the observations. Based on these observations, report was prepared and submitted to the concerned agencies for taking corrective actions on the same.
Some useful findings from Rajasthan are:
- The length, breadth and thickness of most of the roads were as per norms.
- Camber, which plays a critical role in draining off the water from the road surface, was not as per the prescribed norms.
- The maintenance of the shoulders was generally found poor and badly damaged and less width as per norms.
- In most of roads road furniture was maintained poorly.
- The drainage system of most of the roads was not as per the prescribed norms and drains were blocked with mud, shrubs, trees and debris etc. and not cleaned time to time.
As per CUTS International, contractors who are responsible for construction and maintenance processes of rural roads are now more cautious. Also the sense of ownership among local communities, who are using rural roads has increased after the intervention.