Gadkari to RSTV: Rural connectivity top priority

Raj Kamal Rao

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari expects more funds for rural road projects in the upcoming Union budget, as his ministry looks to fast-track road construction.

Speaking at the first edition of Rajya Sabha Television’s new flagship programme, Spotlight, the minister said he expects road projects to create 15 lakh jobs in rural India.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana must get additional allocation to fast track rural road construction. It requires more money and the situation is not good. We should give highest priority for rural roads”,” Gadkari said .

The transport minister said five years of NDA government will transform India’s infrastructure, adding that there is no dearth of funds for this priority area.

“In the next five years we’re going to change the infrastructure of this country,” Gadkari said.

“Money is not a problem, mentality is. Unfortunately we have a demoralised bureaucracy,” he added .

Upgrading infrastructure is a major challenge for policy makers of Asia’s third largest economy. India needs about $1 trillion (Rs 66,00,000 crore) for new roads, ports and airports over the next few years.

Gadkari, who is also the minister for waterways, expressed disappointment over the step-motherly treatment accorded to inland waterways. He said countries like China, Korea use waterways for 40% of their transport.

“Waterways is where we need to give highest priority, we only give 1000 crores. But for roads, which pollute more, we allocate Rs 45,000 crore,” said Gadkari.

Gadkari said his ministry is working on an output of 30 kms of new roads per day but they are aiming towards achieving a target of 100 kms per day.

Gadkari added that he expects Rs 15–20 thousand crore more for his ministry in the upcoming budget for 2016-17, over the current year’s outlay of Rs 45,000 crore.

India is said to have one of the world’s largest road networks stretching over 50 lakh kilometres, but a lot of the roads are in poor condition because of low maintenance. National Highways which constitute just 2% of the network bears the load of about 40% of the country’s road traffic.

(With inputs from Krishnanand Tripathi)