ROADS TO NIRVANA
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