Govt plans a mega infrastructure project worth ₹ 3 lakh crore – to build 35,000 km network of worldclass highways

In 1998 when Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister of India, he openly asserted his determination to create a network of world-class highways connecting various major cities of India. The visionary that he was, he understood the importance that a network of high standard roads connecting every part of the country play in its development. Impressed by the network of roads in the USA, he once said, “If you believe that USA has good roads because it is a developed country, you are mistaken. USA is a highly developed country because it has a network of excellent roads.” In 1998, just a few months in his office as the PM, he implemented the National Highway Development Program (NHDP) which aimed to create a network of state of the art national highway system in India. Under NHDP, approximately 50,000 km of national highways have been constructed, upgraded or are under construction. This includes Golden Quadrilateral, North-South Corridor, East West Corridor and highways connecting other major cities.

Under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, the construction of the highways which was earmarked under the NHDP has been at its all time highest. The aim of Modi government is complete the construction of entire 50,000 km of national highways under NHDP. Apart from that, government is also planning to construct a network of National Highways to promote and speed up the transportation of goods from one part of the country to the other, thereby creating an economic corridor. The government is soon going to announce the project of constructing 35,000 km of economic corridor, which will consist of approximately 24,000 km of national highways connecting industrial towns and other 11,000 km of feeder roads, connecting the towns to industries, ports, mines etc. The project will cost approximately ₹ 3 lakh crore. 

A senior officer from Road Transport and Highway ministry told to PTI, “A Road Transport and Highways Ministry-appointed study for economic corridors by global consultancy firm AT Kearney has identified 40 such economic corridors totaling about 35,000 km.” The economic corridors planned under this program are Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bangalore-Mangalore, Hyderabad-Panji and Sambalpur-Ranchi to name a few. These roads are specifically designed for fast and efficient movement of goods –
1. movement of raw materials from the source to the industries,
2. movement of finished products from industries to towns, airports, ports for distribution,
3. movement of various types of logistics across the country.
4. creation of economic and industrial corridor along the highways

The highways are proposed to be built under two systems. First, BOT (Built, Operate, Transfer) toll mode, where private parties build the road, operate it by collecting toll taxes and once the amount has been recovered, the road is transferred to the government. Second system that will be adopted in the project will be HAM (Hybrid Annuity Mode), where the government provides 40% fund to the private companies building the roads and the rest 60% has to be met by the private companies.

The creation of a network of 4/6-lane expressways such as Golden Quadrilateral, East-west and North-south corridors have totally changed the face of the country. It has drastically cut down the travel time, made road journey efficient & convenient and helped in rapid industrialization of the area through which these highways pass. For instance, the journey from Lucknow to Darbhanga used to take about 15-17 hours a couple of decades ago. With the east-west corridor functional, today the journey is immensely smooth and hardly takes 9 hours.

The construction of 35,000 km of economic corridor for faster and efficient movement of cargo will be the second major revolution in the roadways sector of India (the first being NHDP by Shri Vajpayee). This massive investment will create an incredibly large number of jobs – directly and indirectly. Construction of 35,000 km of roads will require a huge manpower, thereby providing the direct jobs. Once constructed and operationalized, it will lead to establishment of industries along the corridor, thereby creating many more jobs in the long term. With road construction – both National Highways and rural – already at their peak, this new project will be another big step towards realizing the dream of former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to see an India where every single town, city and village is connected by roads of global standards for quick and efficient movement of people as well as cargo.

Kshitij Mohan


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