The government is working on a scheme to raise funds from the public at 6 per cent annual interest rate for road infrastructure projects, union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha.
"... We are working on a scheme to raise funds from the poor and ordinary persons for road projects. We will raise funds at 6 per cent annual interest rate which is higher than what banks provide," he said in the Upper House.
This will benefit the public as they will get a fixed return, he added.
Speaking during the Question Hour, the Road Transport and Highways minister said the country has set several world records in road construction despite COVID-19.
The construction of Zoji La tunnel on the Srinagar-Leh highway will be completed before 2024, while another Z-Morh tunnel will be completed in the next three months, he added.
Highlighting the steps taken to link critical roads with national highways from Leh-Ladakh region, Gadkari said the government is constructing Zoji La tunnel below Kargil and the work is in progress.
This tunnel is to be completed in 3.5 years. About 1,000 laborers are working in minus 8 degree temperature inside the tunnel. "I am sure the tunnel will be ready before 2024," he said.
The Minister said while the cost of the tunnel in the tender was projected at Rs 11,000 crore, the government made special efforts to bring down the cost by Rs 5,000 crore.
The Z-Morh tunnel is "more or less complete" and will be completed fully in the next three months, he said, adding that this will reduce the travel time by 6 hours from Leh-Ladakh.
Further, the minister said 24 green express highways for a length of 8,000 km being constructed will transform the road infrastructure in the country.
He said that the pace of road construction has increased in the last seven years and there is no shortage of funds for implementation of the road projects.
Recalling the US President John F Kennedy's lines, the minister said, "Kennedy said American roads are not good because America is rich. America is rich because American roads are good."
Gadkari said India too will be a prosperous and successful country in the coming years as Indian road infrastructure will be up to the standards of the US and Europe.
Citing reasons for delay in road projects prior to 2014, the minister said the pace of construction was 12.7 km per day then and many projects had stalled due to land acquisition, court cases and financial problems.
After the Modi government came to power, he said the government reviewed 406 stalled road projects worth Rs 3.85 lakh crore and restarted them. The restarting of these projects saved banks from the non-performing asset (NPA) of about Rs 3 lakh crore.
The minister further said the speed of road construction has increased to 38 km per day and it will increase to 45 km per day by end of the 2021-22 fiscal, setting a new world record.
Already the country has set three world records in road construction.
First, India has set a world record in highest road construction, second it has set world record in construction Mumbai-Delhi highway express of 2.5 km in 24 hours and third world record in construction Solapur-Bijapur one lane road of 26km in just 22 hours, he added.
He said there has been a 55 per cent increase in construction of highway road to 1,40,936 km now which will further increase to 2 lakh km under Gati Shakti Bharatmala project.
The minister was responding to queries asked by BJP members Prakash Javadekar and Syed Zafar Islam.
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