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Monday, June 24, 2024

India’s road infrastructure to rival that of US in next 5 yrs: Nitin Gadkari


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Thiruvananthapuram: India has set an ambitious goal of making its road infrastructure rival that of the USA in the next five years, besides decongesting metros and considerably reducing travel time and road mishaps, says Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

In the last nine years, Gadkari, in a mission mode to make the country’s roads safer and smarter, said his ministry had awarded work for projects worth more than Rs 50 lakh crore and also eased the procedure for sanctioning contracts by improving the existing policies.

“No contractor needs to come to me for sanctioning the contract. We are transparent, time-bound, result-oriented, quality-conscious, and fast in our decision-making. We consider the ministry, contractors, and bankers as one family. We encourage good work, and that is why we have seven world records. This is the great achievement of the ministry,” he said in an interview published in the Manorama Yearbook 2024.

“I am confident that after five years, our road infrastructure will be equal to the US.”

Asserting that he ‘never gives false promises’, the minister stressed that futuristic development of infrastructure is the need of the country. India needs robust infrastructure for attracting capital investment from both domestic and foreign sources, which would remove poverty and generate employment.

Determined to make India number one in the automobile sector, he said India’s automobile industry had recently surpassed Japan to become the third behind China and USA. “Our industry is worth Rs 7.5 lakh crore, and the maximum GST for the states and central government is generated from this sector. Till now, 4.5 crore jobs have been created by this industry. My dream is to double the size of our automobile industry to Rs 15 lakh crore in the next five years. This is the way in which we are progressing in every sector. We are already the fastest-growing economy, and people are more interested in dealing with India.”

He also strongly pitched for introducing electric and flex-fuel vehicles to reduce consumption of fossil fuel, whose import bill is Rs 16 lakh crore. Some vehicles, with flex engines, are now being powered by ethanol instead of petrol. It will bring the average cost of fuel to Rs 15 as ethanol’s rate is only Rs 60 and it would also generate electricity. “We are now opening ethanol pumps,” he informed.

Gadkari said it would also empower Indian farmers to double up as ‘urjadaata’ (energy producer) while being ‘anndaata’ (food producer) as ethanol fuel can be produced from crops like sugarcane and rice stalk. “The diversification of agriculture to energy and power sector is the most important policy which is going to change the future of our country, particularly of rural agriculture and tribal India. Like smart cities, we can have smart villages which is very important for the development of our country and that is the policy change we are bringing in.”

As for the future of public transportation, he said India is now making ropeways, cable cars and running public transport on electricity. Efforts are underway to introduce electric buses in more cities. “Within five years public transport will totally change. It will be a less polluting, more cost-effective substitute,” he said.

For decongesting metros, projects have been undertaken worth over Rs 65,000 crore, which include Dwarka Expressway (Rs 9,000 cr.), six-lane urban extension road in the National Capital (Rs 8,000 cr.), Eastern Peripheral Expressway (Rs 12,000 cr.), and Delhi-Meerut Expressway (Rs 8,000 crore).

In support of his ministry’s efforts to ensure faster travel time, he cited the instance of Atal Tunnel at Rohtang Pass between Manali and Lahaul-Spiti Valley, which has reduced travel time from three hours to eight minutes. Similarly, Katra-Delhi Expressway will allow travel between Delhi and Amritsar in four hours, Delhi and Katra (J&K) in six hours and Delhi and Srinagar in eight hours. In Ladakh, the work has started on the biggest tunnel in Asia at Zojila Pass.

He also disclosed that new border roads are being built which are strategically important. There are 30 roads where airplanes can safely land. Plans are afoot to develop 670 roadside amenities which will also have heliports and drone ports.

Gadkari said entrepreneurs and startups have a vital role to play in revitalising the Indian economy. “We need to support those who have entrepreneurship and possess new technology,” he added.

The minister, however, conceded that his promise to reduce accidents by 50 per cent has not yielded desired results. Every year five lakh accidents and 1.50 lakh deaths occur which result in a GDP loss of three per cent.

“This is a problem related to automobile engineering, road engineering and awareness of the people. People don’t have respect for the law,” he said, adding that it is imperative to change the mindset of the people about road safety for which help is needed from media, social and educational institutions, and NGOs. Help is being enlisted from celebrities, including Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar, in this regard.

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