India’s rural roads programme, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is the Government of India’s flagship programme for building rural roads. Launched in 2000, the PMGSY aims at connecting India’s unconnected rural habitations with all-weathered roads to its major and highway road network towards “inclusive development” of the rural. The premise is that increased connectivity and mobility leads to improved access to markets, and facilities such as hospitals and schools – which eventually help deliver ‘development.’ The programme has so far built over half a million km of roads covering 120,000 rural habitations across India.
The study aims at understanding the ideas and rationalities driving the programme. The approach is modeled on ‘multi-sited ethnography’ and involves ethnographic engagement and key informant interviews with the multiple networks of actors and agencies in conceptualizing and implementing of the programme. These range from international development institutions such as the World Bank; the government agencies such as the Ministry of Rural Development at the national scale, the road development agencies at the state level; to the government (departments) and private actors (contractors, engineers, technical institutions) on the ground involved in building the roads directly. The study is thus located in multiple locations: in Delhi, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, and multiple locations within the state – Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.