The Cabinet today approved highway projects worth Rs.7 lakh crore as part of a mega plan to construct 80,000 km of highways over the next five years. This also comprises the government's ambitious Bharatmala project. Touted as the umbrella programme for roads, it is the second-largest highway project following the government’s other ambitious schemes like the National Highways Development Project.
It is also set to subsume all road development projects underway, to build 20,000 km of highways. The Centre is to provide about 70% of the funds required, with the remaining being taken care of by levy on fuel, auctioning of the completed highways and so on. Supposedly, the development of the highways under this mega project will create 32 crore man-days countrywide during the course of this project. Traffic movement across key corridors could also witness an improvement. This could increase the distance covered by trucks every day, which currently ranges between 250-300 km owing to the exisitng condition of our roadways and congestion. In contrast, in other developed countries, the distance covered by trucks is 700-800 km on an average every day.
Scaled on a wide girth of ambition, the mega infra plan is intended to give an impetus to road connectivity and generate jobs, apart from spurring economic activity. Whether it is able to deliver on its high ambitions, of course, remains to be seen, and we have a hefty five years for that.