For 2019-20, the ministry of road transport and highways is likely to seek nearly 25 per cent higher budgetary allocation from the finance ministry compared to last year.
This is mainly for completing the ambitious Bharatmala, the scheme that received Cabinet approval in October 2017.
Funds being sought are to the tune of Rs 850-890 billion. Under Bharatmala, the aim is to construct 34,800 km of highways at an investment of Rs 5.35 trillion in the first phase (by 2022).
The allocation has been sought for projects that would be executed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL). “The higher allocation will be mainly for financing the Bharatmala projects as it is our focus area,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
The budgetary allocations for the road ministry and its allied arms were Rs 649 billion in 2017-18 and Rs 710 billion in 2018-19. In October 2017, the Union Cabinet cleared the Bharatmala project to construct 20,000 km of highways connecting western and eastern parts of the country at an estimated investment of Rs 7 trillion.
In the first phase to be undertaken over five years (2017-22), the project would cost Rs 5.5 trillion and be funded through various sources, including Rs 2.09 trillion from the market, Rs 1.06 trillion through private investments and Rs 2.19 trillion from the central road fund or toll collection. The average cost of constructing 1 km of road is Rs 130 million.
Bharatmala is the largest highways project after the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) which saw the development of about 50,000 km, and aims at improving connectivity in border and other areas.
The roads under the scheme would connect the length and breadth of the country and function like arteries, cutting across major towns and cities, in the overall highway network.
These corridors will permit faster movement of cargo vehicles. According to the government’s estimates, construction of 10,000 km of highways annually has the potential of generating 40 million man-days of employment.
The Centre will seek assistance of the Border Roads Organisation for construction in difficult terrain. Bharatmala was proposed on the lines of Sagarmala, in which a string of ports will be built in the Indian Ocean to protect maritime interests. The government plans to improve road connectivity, not just to coastal and border areas but also to backward regions.