Roadways: Growth and Development of Roads in India

Roadways: Growth and Development of Roads in India
Posted on 23-08-2023

Road Infrastructure Growth and Evolution in India

The evolution of road infrastructure in India has been marked by several key developmental plans aimed at enhancing connectivity and accessibility throughout the country. These plans have played a crucial role in shaping India's road network and facilitating economic and social development.

Inception of Road Development: The Nagpur Plan (1943) The Nagpur Plan, introduced in 1943, marked India's initial significant effort to advance its roadways. The primary objective of this plan was to extend the mileage of major roads across the country. However, immediate execution of the plan faced challenges due to the presence of numerous princely states beyond British India's control.

Twenty Year Plan (1961): Expansion and Accessibility The Twenty Year Plan of 1961 represented a pivotal milestone in India's road infrastructure development. This plan aimed not only to extend the length of roads but also to increase road density. Additionally, the plan sought to connect rural areas with paved roads, thereby fostering accessibility and development in these regions.

Empowering Rural Areas: The Rural Development Plan Under the umbrella of the Rural Development Plan, various initiatives were undertaken to enhance rural road connectivity. Programs like the Minimum Needs Programme, Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme, and Jawahar Rojgar Yojana contributed to the construction of roads in rural areas, thereby boosting socio-economic growth.

Introducing Private Participation: Build Operate Transfer (BOT) Scheme The introduction of the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) scheme marked a shift in road infrastructure development strategies. This innovative approach involved partnering with private entities to construct roads and bridges. These private operators were granted permission to levy tolls for infrastructure usage, and ownership would eventually be transferred to the government. This scheme not only infused private sector expertise but also ensured revenue generation for maintenance and expansion.

India's road infrastructure growth has witnessed a series of strategic plans spanning decades. From the Nagpur Plan's inception, the focus evolved from extending road length to enhancing road density and rural connectivity. The inclusion of private participation through the BOT scheme further diversified development strategies. These plans collectively facilitated India's journey towards a more robust and well-connected road network, contributing significantly to the nation's overall progress and development.

Fostering Economic Growth: India's Road Networks as Catalysts for Development

A nation's prosperous economy hinges upon its extensive highway system, which has emerged as a dominant force in driving economic growth. In India, the road network plays a pivotal role in the country's developmental narrative. It contributes over 3.6% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), constituting a significant portion of the transport-related contributions to India's GDP. A substantial share of both passenger and freight transportation, 85% and 65% respectively, relies on road networks. India boasts one of the world's largest road networks, spanning 5.5 million kilometers. This network caters to 90% of the country's passenger traffic and facilitates the transportation of 64.5% of goods and commodities, showcasing its paramount importance in fostering development.

The expansion of well-developed highways and roads in India holds the potential for immediate positive impacts on employment, particularly benefitting the manufacturing sector. Enhanced connectivity between states will streamline logistics, making travel smoother and goods movement more efficient. This expansion will contribute to reduced local pollution, improved environmental safety by curbing traffic congestion, and encourage leisure travel while minimizing traffic jams. Another noteworthy outcome is the growth spill-over effect, wherein regions previously lacking significant road connectivity can experience development akin to areas along national highways. This aspect is crucial for equitable regional progress, especially in a diverse country like India.

To realize these benefits, the Government of India has launched initiatives such as the Bharatmala project, aimed at bolstering road and highway infrastructure. This project, initiated in 2015, focuses on creating a reliable, high-speed road network across economic corridors, border regions, and remote areas. The vision includes reducing supply chain costs from 18% to 6%, facilitating international trade, and catalyzing growth. Notably, this initiative also holds personal significance for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as it aims to connect India's north-eastern states. The ongoing project spans approximately 65,000 km of national highways across two phases, with expectations of generating substantial employment and millions of jobs due to increased economic activity.

Even amid the pandemic, India achieved remarkable milestones, constructing 13,298 km of highways in the fiscal year 2021, setting a record of 37 km per day in March 2021. The Golden Quadrilateral project, initiated under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, fostered connectivity between hinterlands and key financial centers, contributing to economic growth. The National Infrastructure Pipeline for the fiscal year 2019-25 further emphasizes the importance of road and highway infrastructure, including the construction of tunnels and underground structures.

Prominent tunnel projects such as Pir Panjal, Chenani-Nashri, Kazigund-Banihal, Rohtang, and the upcoming Zojila tunnel signify the country's paradigm shift in road networks. The sector's evolution is driven by robust demand, increased investments, liquidity support, and significant policy backing. Private sector participation has played a pivotal role, with 125 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects worth $23.25 billion underway in the fiscal year 2021. Additionally, the allowance of 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the road sector has attracted international collaborations, further fueling expansion.

The significance of road infrastructure as a public resource cannot be overstated. It facilitates trade and commerce between urban centers and the regions they connect, enabling economic growth and inclusive development. Sectors like steel, cement, automotive, and real estate benefit substantially from road construction. Looking ahead, a robust road network remains a cornerstone of India's swift economic recovery and sustained progress.

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