Once again Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proved that roads are very important for his government and the economy as well. The roads have played a key role in the economic excellence achieved by Russia, Germany, France, UK and China. During the NDA-I too under the leadership of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, roads were a key area of concern for the government. The Union Cabinet’s decision on October 24 to the road building programmes of around Rs 7 lakh crore with a target to construct 83,677-km of roads in the next five years will only give the much needed boost the country’s road infra and improve connectivity. These programmes including Bharatmala project of around 35,000-km with an investment of Rs 5.35 lakh crore, are likely to create 14.2 crore mandays of jobs. It is worth mentioning that the Bharatmala project includes 9,000-km of economic corridor to smoothen connectivity of manufacturing hubs. To ensure holistic connectivity, the Centre has approved the creation of an inter corridor and feeder routes under which 6,000-km of roads will be constructed.
To boost border roads and international connectivity, the government approved construction of 2,000 km of roads along the eastern and western borders of the country. Boosting all-round connectivity, the Union government also approved the construction of roads of 10,000 km. Under the Bharatmala project, over 20,000-km of highways will be constructed in the first phase. Bharatmala is a mega plan of the government and the second-largest highways project after NHDP that saw development of about 50,000 km, and aims at improving connectivity in border and other areas. The Centre had earlier planned to develop economic corridors with a length of about 21,000-km besides 14,000-km of feeder routes. The corridors included Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi, to name a few. A study under the proposed Bharatmala project by global consultancy firm AT Kearney had identified 44 economic corridors. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), earlier this year, had asked for Public Investment Board’s (PIB) clearance to the first phase of the project.
A record 47,350-km of Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) road was constructed during 2016-17. This is the highest construction of PMGSY roads in a single year, in the last 7 years. While 25,316-km of PMGSY roads were constructed in 2013-14, road construction in 2014-15 was 36,337-km and in 2015-16, it was 36,449-km. During the period 2011-14, the average rate of construction of PMGSY roads was 73-km per day, which increased to 100-km per day during 2014-15 and 2015-16. For the year 2016-17, a record of 130-km per day has been achieved, which is the highest average annual construction rate, in the last seven years. As many as 11,614 habitations were provided connectivity by construction of 47,350-km of PMGSY roads during 2016-17, an average of 32 habitations being provided connectivity every day. In terms of the number of habitations connected with PMGSY roads, 11,606 was the highest ever in the last seven years.
With a view to reducing the ‘carbon footprint’ of rural roads, reduce environmental pollution, increase the working season and bring cost effectiveness, PMGSY is aggressively encouraging the use of ‘green technologies’ and non-conventional materials like waste plastic, cold mix, geo-textiles, fly-ash, iron and copper slag and so on in rural roads. As much as 4,113.13-km of PMGSY roads were constructed using ‘green’ technologies, in 2016-17, which was substantially higher than 2,634.02-km achieved during 2014-2016 and 806.93-km achieved during 2000-2014. To ensure quality assurance, the field inspections of PMGSY works by National Quality Monitors (NQMs) were increased. The year 2016-17 witnessed a record number of 7,597 NQM inspections as compared to 6,516 inspections in 2015-16, 5,226 inspections in 2014-15 and 2,977 inspections in 2013-14. Out of 7,597 works inspected only 8.21 per cent works were found to be of ‘unsatisfactory’ quality in 2015-16. Needless to say, the NDA government has put India on the road to become a super economic power in years to come.
(The writer is Director, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Chandigarh. Views are his personal)