NEW DELHI: The government is all set to launch the rural transport programme Pradhan Mantri Gram Parivahan Yojana to provide connectivity and employment opportunities in remote villages. The pilot project is expected to take off in Bilaspur district in Chhattisgarh and 20 areas in the north-eastern part of the country.

The rural development ministry has drawn up a plan to study the economic viability of the project and decided to provide 30-35% subsidy for 10-12 seater passenger vehicles that will be used to connect remote villages. The remaining amount can be borrowed by selfhelp groups from banks.

“This is the only way to make this exercise economically viable…everyone talks of urban transport but rural economy needs these facilities equally and at affordable rates,” a senior government official said.

The scheme is aimed at addressing unsafe, poorly regulated, informal and unorganised rural transport services.

It will be aligned with the rural roads programme Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, which has connected over a lakh habitations so far. In 2015-16 over 36,000 km of road network was added under the programme and the target in 2016-17 is to cross 48,000 km.

Having built these roads, the government now wants leverage this network to help rural entrepreneurs, farmers and workers commute and transport goods as well.

“What good is a road if there is no transportation on it…Longer stretches need to be connected to provide access to livelihood, health and education to rural population. It has to be designed in a way that people can access facilities which are available at least 10-20 km away,” said Amitabh Kundu, senior fellow at Delhi Policy Group.

The rural development ministry is in talks with the Infrastructure Development Finance Company to provide easy access to funds for the scheme.

The government is discussing ways to involve the private sector in implementation of this plan. “To get things started the government is going to provide financial support to buy the automobiles. …As we expand the reach of the programme we will have to come up with more innovative solutions,” the official cited earlier said.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had in his budget speech in February said that the government will make necessary amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act and open up the road transport sector in the passenger segment. “An enabling ecosystem will be provided for the states which will have the choice of adopting the new legal framework,” he had said.