Making e-autorickshaws a common sight in rural India, creating a water grid that is on par with power grid and constructing 17 highways-cum-airstrips are the government's priorities and it will start work on them this year, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said.
After getting the additional charge of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation in last week's Cabinet reshuffle, Gadkari told PTI in an interview that another "mammoth task" that lay on his shoulders was to make Ganga 'aviral and nirmal' (continuous and clean flow).
"Public transport on electric mode is the dire need now. We are bringing a policy for it. Thrust will also be on rural transport on electric autorickshaws and other vehicles, powered by lithium ion battery. Its cost has already been reduced by 40 per cent and prices will further come down on mass production," Gadkari said.
He said that last week DMRC facilitated the launch of a fleet of E-autorickshaws at Gurgaon to provide last-mile connectivity in the millennium city for metro commuters and likewise initiatives in all states where metros trains are coming up could be taken.
"India has become coal and power surplus. Electric mode is getting cheaper. Transport charges will come down. People will get sustainable transport. Whether West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, North East, Uttar Pradesh or Bihar - metro and electric transport will expand eliminating hand rickshaws, which is inhuman (practice)," he said.
He said massive work was lined up in this direction and would be launched before 2018.
Another thrust area is creating a River Grid on par with Power Grid that undertakes transmission of electricity through Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS), he said.
"Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan battle with water crisis. Even drinking water is not available in many villages," he said.
Gadkari said he was serious on the issue and would start work soon in this direction besides would begin work on three of the five river inter-linking projects worth Rs 50,000 crore in the next three months.
"Will start work soon on five projects of river connectivity as per Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision. Interlinking of rivers was also the dream of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. Why can't we divert the excess water from Ganga and Brhmaputra to Cauvery and other rivers," he said.
He asserted that he had a "mammoth task" on his shoulders to make Ganga 'aviral and nirmal', besides increasing irrigation capacity for farmers in the country.
On highway projects, he said the Defence has agreed to transfer land near Dhaulakuan to widen the stretch and work will begin soon on the project which will ease traffic condition on that road.
Besides, its nod has been obtained for building 17 highway stretches in areas near borders that will also double up as airstrips and permission will soon be sought from the Aviation Ministry, he said.
"There are 17 projects and we aim to start work on all before 2018," the Minister said.
The projects are designed in such a fashion that the roads will double up as airstrips and traffic will be stopped when an airplane lands or takes off. The road and air connectivity will also provide better access to remote areas.
Such projects are planned in Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and some other border districts.
Waterways also are top on the agenda of the government and work has already been underway on two projects Ganga and Brahamaputra, he said, adding that work on another 10 projects will start by the end of the year.