Maoist violence has had little effect on infrastructure development in rural India, shows new research funded by the International Growth Centre

Left-wing extremism and conflict have not prevented infrastructure development in rural India, according to research funded by the International Growth Centre.

Left-wing extremism and conflict have not prevented infrastructure development in rural India, according to research funded by the International Growth Centre.

Despite recent media reports to the contrary, researchers find some evidence that projects in affected areas are subject to more delays, but there is no evidence of higher costs, lower overall project completion, or affected areas not being selected for infrastructure projects.

Researchers studied four of the Government of India’s flagship infrastructure programmes including mobile phone connectivity, rural roads, rural electrification, and flexible small-scale infrastructure. However, they found little evidence that Maoist violence makes areas more or less likely to be selected for infrastructure projects.

They do however find evidence that some projects are subject to more delays in areas affect by violence. Rural electrification and rural road projects do appear to suffer from longer delays and completion times, but overall project completion is not affected.  Mobile phone connectivity projects do not have higher rates of delays or cancellations in areas affected by violence.

The research did show that that the average cost per kilometre of rural road, and the cost of flexible small-scale infrastructure projects, was actually cheaper in Maoist affected areas. This may suggest that officials are choosing to implement technically simpler projects in these areas.

Unprecedented investment in infrastructure is at the heart of the Government of India’s strategy for rural economic development. These programmes are particularly important for around 90 districts affected by left-wing extremism. These districts are among India’s poorest, and are characterised by severe gaps in infrastructure, and a large share of scheduled tribes.1

Jacob Shapiro, author of the paper and an Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, said: “Our research dismisses the argument that security threats in these areas are so severe that infrastructure development has been shut down. This may suggest that infrastructure projects were effectively implemented and adequately protected by police forces.”

The IGC-funded researchers matched data from infrastructure programmes between 2001 and 2013 to 2001 census data on India’s 10 Maoist-affected states. Of the villages they studied, around 50% belong to districts with at least one Maoist-related incident, and 14% are in districts with at least 25 incidents.

The researchers investigated whether areas affected by left-wing extremism were more or less likely to be selected for infrastructure projects, and whether the roll-out of these programmes faced particular challenges.

Notes for editors:

A policy brief and full academic paper on this research is available here: https://www.theigc.org/project/connecting-the-red-corridor-infrastructure-provision-in-conflict-zones/

1 – Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India refers to Scheduled Tribes as those communities which are identified by  indications of primitive traits, distinctive culture, shyness of contact with the community at large, geographical isolation, and backwardness (http://tribal.nic.in/Content/IntroductionScheduledTribes.aspx).