ON THE ROAD TO PROS­PER­ITY

The Modi gov­ern­ment has set a blis­ter­ing pace of work in trans­port in­fra­struc­ture, from roads to rail­ways

India Today - - 30 YEARS OF MODI GOVERNMENT | TRANSPORT - By San­deep Un­nithan

AT A PUB­LIC FUNC­TION in Mum­bai last Septem­ber, road trans­port min­is­ter Nitin Gad­kari cracked up the au­di­ence. “Our slo­gan achhe din (good days),” he told them, “has be­come a ga­ley ki haddi (a bone stuck in the throat) for us.” Gad­kari, who heads the min­istries of road trans­port, high­ways, ship­ping and ports hinted at the bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tions on his gov­ern­ment. This year, his min­istry fell short of its am­bi­tious tar­get of build­ing 41 km of roads ev­ery day. But even the 22 km per day they built was twice the speed of road con­struc­tion un­der UPA­II.

In­deed, NDA­II has set a blis­ter­ing pace of work in trans­port in­fra­struc­ture. High­ways are be­ing laid much faster than they were three years ago, con­struc­tion con­tracts are be­ing awarded speed­ily, pub­lic sec­tor ports are out­per­form­ing their pri­vate sec­tor coun­ter­parts; and even the his­tor­i­cally in­do­lent In­dian Rail­ways with in­vest­ments in broad gauge lines, track elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and man­u­fac­tur­ing of rolling stock is on the cusp of a rev­o­lu­tion.

2016­17 saw the rail­ways take on their high­est ever freight load, 1,100 mil­lion tonnes, an 80 per cent in­crease in non­fare rev­enue—Rs 10,100 crore. The min­istry has, in the past two years, handed out con­tracts worth over Rs 35,000 crore for con­struct­ing over 3,000 km of tracks for its game­chang­ing Ded­i­cated Freight Cor­ri­dors.

New air­ports com­ing up in Navi Mum­bai and Noida will ease the bur­den on Mum­bai and Delhi air­ports and are part of 18 green­field air­ports which have been given in­prin­ci­ple clear­ances by the gov­ern­ment.

The do­mes­tic aviation sec­tor is also tak­ing off with a re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity scheme ti­tled ‘Udan’. Un­der it, 33 un­used air­ports are be­ing re­ac­ti­vated, of­fer­ing air con­nec­tiv­ity and eco­nomic pros­per­ity to the hinterland even though its model of sub­sidised air tick­ets reeks of the same state­spon­sored so­cial­ism that landed Air In­dia in the multi­bil­lion ru­pee mess it is in. The gov­ern­ment has re­vi­talised the dor­mant in­land waterways sec­tor with a project to de­velop a 1,380 km fair­way link­ing Varanasi to Hal­dia for Rs 5,369 crore. Yet th­ese mul­ti­ple sec­tors may no longer work in si­los, with Gad­kari, rail­way min­is­ter Suresh Prabhu and civil aviation min­is­ter Ashok Ga­jap­ati Raju show­ing up at the gov­ern­ment’s first in­te­grated trans­port and lo­gis­tics sum­mit in New Delhi in May.

This is also the vi­sion of the Sa­gar­mala project that aims to seam­lessly link road, rail and sea­ports. The Sa­gar­mala project’s vi­sion for port­led econ­omy will save Rs 40,000 crore an­nu­ally in cost of lo­gis­tics. Multi­modal trans­port hubs in ci­ties like Varanasi and Hal­dia will see a con­ver­gence of rail­ways, high­ways and waterways.

Where is all this headed? With GST be­com­ing a re­al­ity, in­te­grated lo­gis­tics will be a game­changer. As in­dus­try watch­ers say, it was eas­ier to haul a truck from Italy to France than to ply it be­tween Delhi and Gu­ru­gram. The project will bring ef­fi­cien­cies of scale and bump up GDP.

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