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Transport Network in Bundelkhand

 
  Horse-drawn carts and bullock carts continue to be commonly used modes of transport in many parts of Bundelkhand

Compared to some other backward regions of the country, such as Marathwada, UP Bundelkhand, and Sagar and Damoh districts of MP Bundelkhand have good rail connectivity. (See 'Railway Network in Bundelkhand’ in Bundelkhand in Maps).

Jhansi-Kanpur and Jhansi-Allahabad branches of the Central railway are connected to the Mumbai-Delhi route, and a branch from Bina on this route connects to Katni, on the Mumbai-Allahabad route. Jhansi, Lalitpur, Orai (Jalaun), Banda, Mahoba, Manikpur (Chitrakoot), Sagar and Damoh are serviced by long-distance express trains and passenger and goods trains.

Compared to the total area of these districts, the area covered by rail lines is small, but easy access offered to Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Jabalpur and other cities is significant.

Excluding Damoh and Sagar, MP Bundelkhand has poor rail connectivity.

Road Connectivity

According to 2001-02 figures given in the 2006-07 UP annual plan, UP Bundelkhand had 111 km of pucca road (the figure for any kind of road would be much higher) per 100,000 population. This was much higher than the state average of a little over 80 km pucca road though lower than the national average of around 150 km pucca road per 100,000 population.

However, we have to consider that compared to the rest of UP, UP Bundelkhand has strikingly low population density. While it accounted for a little over 12% of the state’s land area, it accounted for less than 5% of the state population according to Census 2001 figures. In a low population density area spread over several thousand square kilometres, road density per 100 sq km is the more valid indicator. On this score, UP Bundelkhand is the least developed region of UP. The 2006-07 UP annual plan reported that the region had 31.5 km of pucca road per 100 sq km, against the state average of 58.2 km per 100 sq km.

We have to use the same criterion in MP, where road connectivity per 100 sq km is very poor compared to the national average. According to Madhya Pradesh Human Development Report 2007 figures, road connectivity per 100 sq km area in MP Bundelkhand was not significantly different from the state average except in Panna and Tikamgarh districts. While average road length (any kind of road; 2003 figures) per 100 sq km in the state was 23. 5 km, in Panna it was only 16 km and in Tikamgarh it was higher than the state average, at 28.9 km. Across MP Bundelkhand road connectivity is much lower than in UP Bundelkhand.

Poor road connectivity is attested by Census 2001 figures in the table in Amenities in Villages and Households, which show that over half the villages in UP Bundelkhand and around two-thirds of the villages in MP Bundelkhand did not have pucca road access. Among all districts of Bundelkhand, Sagar had poorest road connectivity; over three-fourths of the villages in the district did not have pucca road access.

Across Bundelkhand, road access to villages is lowest in districts with highest area under forests: Chitrakoot in UP, and Chhatarpur, Panna, Damoh and Sagar in MP. This has several implications for tribal groups living in forest areas. Their access to markets is low; availability of services in villages is also low - even if infrastructure like a school or primary sub-health centre exists, chances of it being fully functional are low due to commuting problems faced by staff. In this cycle of poverty, remoteness, reduced opportunities and low availability of services, people living in forest areas in Bundelkhand face another problem: threat of dacoits.

Road infrastructure is also low in ravine belt areas, and in Bundelkhand Plain, many villages along rivers are cut off during the monsoons.

While discussing the road network of Bundelkhand, we must keep in mind the transport facilities available. Regular bus services are available only in relatively large urban centres, like Banda, Jhansi, Sagar and other district headquarters, and connect only towns and large villages. As the table in Amenities in Villages and Households shows, only around a fifth of the villages in both UP and MP Bundelkhand enjoyed bus service in 2001; in Chitrakoot, less than one in nine villages enjoyed this facility.

All other villages with pucca road access are generally serviced by a variety of dangerously overcrowded and poorly maintained small vehicles, including `six-seater’ rickshaws and jeeps. Usually, the number of passengers carried is two to three times the seating capacity. Horse-drawn carts and bullock carts also continue to be used.

In remote villages of Lalitpur, Chitrakoot, Panna, Damoh and other districts that do not have pucca road access, people often have to walk for about an hour to reach a place serviced by motor vehicle transport.

Till 2008, no district headquarters of Bundelkhand was connected by air, and the only airport in the region, at Khajurao, served only tourists coming from Delhi.

Investments to overcome these infrastructure shortages will have across-the- board benefits: improved access and mobility enhances economic opportunities, and helps people overcome local limitations of health and education infrastructure; it also provides direct income earning opportunities in the motor vehicle transport industry.

But while roads can be built across any part of Bundelkhand, a fundamental limitation in MP Bundelkhand districts is low access to railways. And at the region’s current level of economic development, any talk of more airports is idle fantasy.

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