Union Budget: Infrastructure gets priority; boost for roads and highways

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NDA Government has big record in developing roads and Highways. Way back in 1999 itself, Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government had launched National Highways Development Project (NHDP). Six years of NDA regime (1998-2004) has been considered a golden period in terms of infrastructural growth. Carrying this legacy forward, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley budgeted an amount of Rs 37,880 crore for the sector. An amount of Rs 3, 000 crore was also issued for roads connecting North-East States.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister said, "The sector (roads) had taken shape from 1998-2004 under NDA-I. The sector again needs huge amount of investment along with de-bottlenecking from maze of clearances".


UPA could add only 16,00 Km highways during 10-yrs of its rule

"The task before me today is very challenging because we need to revive growth, particularly in infrastructure to raise adequate resources for our developmental needs," Jaitley added. Finance Ministry also unveiled plan to construct 8,500 km stretch of national highways during 2014-15 which mean around 23 km of highways must be constructed per day.

Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari welcomed the move and said, "It will give a fillip to infrastructure development in the country. India has emerged as one of the largest PPP markets in the world with over 900 projects in various stages of development".

UPA's dismal record

The road sectors has suffered a lot in last few years and the main reason behind it is delays in clearances, the economic downturn and cautious lending by banks. According to a report, concerned Ministry had awarded 7,500 km of projects since 2012, but work couldn't be completed and it stuck in middle because of various issues like fund crunch faced by developers and other environmental clearances. According to a report, erstwhile UPA government could add only 315 km to India's highway network since 2009.

The road Ministry recently had released a white paper on the issue which said, "Ministries whose contribution was integral to the timely completion of projects went about their task unmindful and unconcerned with the crisis they were creating due to delayed clearances/ sanctions, secure since the system demanded no accountability from them". Earlier, after coming in power the Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the cognisance of the issue and asked the Ministry for a list of highway projects which stuck in middle because of various reasons.

What data say?
In terms of road, India's record is dismal in comparison to other Countries. India has 53.8% road which is far less than UK which has cent per cent record on this sector. Even Malaysia (80.9%), South Korea (80.4), China (63.7%) and Indonesia (57.0%) is way ahead from us.

The UPA Government in 2013 had admitted that the NDA regime during its term constructed nearly half the total length of national highways laid during the last 32 years.

In an affidavit before the Supreme Court, the government had conceded that during 1997-2002 (ninth five-year plan) when NDA was in power, 23,814 km of highways was added.

The SC was told that the length of national highways in the country was 29,023 km in 1980. In 32 years, successive Governments added 47,795 km which expanded the total length to 76,818 km by the end of 2012.

Though National highways comprise only 1.7% of total road network but it carries about 40% of road traffic.Currently India has total road network of 46.90 lakh km. If we categorise this, national highways account for 79,116 km, state highways to 1, 55,716 km and the remaining 44.55 lakh km is 'other roads'.

Narendra Modi always highlighted this point in his campaign that good roads and highways are the sign of prosperity for any country. Underscoring this point, Government has announced these reformatory steps aiming to give boost to these sectors. Now only hitch is its implementation part as any project is considered good only if it is implemented in proficient manner.

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