ROADS TO NIR­VANA

India Today - - STATES - —Uday Mahurkar

GE­N­E­SIS

The Na­tional High­ways Au­thor­ity of In­dia (NHAI) be­gan life quite mod­estly, oper­at­ing out of a res­i­den­tial house in Ma­ha­rani Bagh, Delhi, in 1988. Its for­tunes changed sig­nif­i­cantly in 1995, when then prime min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee de­cided on the de­vel­op­ment of a net­work of four-to-six lane high­ways con­nect­ing In­dia’s four ma­jor met­ros (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chen­nai), known as the Golden Quadri­lat­eral. The net­work was to span about 12,000 km and had a com­ple­tion tar­get of 10 years.

THE PIC­TURE TO­DAY

NHAI laid the foun­da­tion for the mod­erni­sa­tion of In­dia’s road net­work. Though na­tional high­ways ac­count for less than 2 per cent of In­dian roads, they carry more than 40 per cent of the traf­fic. The trans­port sec­tor con­trib­utes about 5.5 per cent to In­dia’s GDP, with road trans­port bring­ing in the lion’s share. This in­fra­struc­ture is vi­tal to eco­nomic growth. More than 80 per cent of all trans­port (goods and peo­ple) in the coun­try takes place via roads.

COM­ING UP NEXT

Cur­rently, NHAI is fo­cused on get­ting pri­vate play­ers to in­vest in the sec­tor. It needs to raise Rs 15 lakh crore to meet its am­bi­tious tar­get of con­struct­ing 100,000 kilo­me­tres of high­ways in the next 10 years. In the past 15 years, only 25,000 kms of new roads were con­structed.

BREAK­ING NEW GROUND Then prime min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee with J. Jay­alalithaa at the open­ing of a new high­way in Kanyaku­mari

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