In the last articles, we saw how the ‘Big 4’ ministries have performed under the Narendra Modi government apart from the departments which directly report to the Prime Minister. In this article, we take a look at achievements of Nitin Gadkari – Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Ganga Rejuvenation. He is one of the best performing ministers of the Modi government.
Nitin Gadkari has been associated with ABVP and RSS since his younger days. He comes from Nagpur, which is the headquarters of RSS. He was Member of Legislative Council (MLC) in Maharashtra since 1989. Later he was appointed as PWD minister in Shivsena – BJP coalition government in Maharashtra during 1995 – 99. Nitin Gadkari is known as infrastructure man and has great expertise in the sector. As PWD minister of Maharashtra, he constructed first of its kind in India Greenfield Mumbai – Pune Expressway and 53 flyovers in Mumbai to ease the traffic in a record time of 4 years. He earned the sobriquet of ‘Roadkari’ from Late Balasaheb Thackery for his infrastructure push during BJP – Shivsena government rule in Maharashtra. He also conceived Bandra – Worli Sea Link in Mumbai but unfortunately Shivsena – BJP government was voted out in 1999, and it took a really long time for sea link to see the light of the day. During his tenure, he connected 13,736 remote villages of Maharashtra with all-weather road connectivity. He is the man who first privatized highway constructions in India on Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Build – Operate – Transfer (BOT) basis, the concepts widely used all over India today.
After looking at his successful track record as PWD minister in Maharashtra, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appointed him the Chairman of National Rural Road Development Committee. His committee after thorough study submitted a report to the government and new rural road connecting schemes known as Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched as a result of recommendations of this committee. He was also Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council during 1999 – 2005. Thereafter he was appointed as state president of BJP in Maharashtra till 2009 when he was elevated as youngest national president of BJP. Looking at his track record, Narendra Modi gave him charge of Road Transport Ministry, a supposedly low profile ministry for a former national president of the ruling party, on his own demand, and he has turned around road construction sector in India in last five years.
He is perhaps the most efficient minister and due to the public interface of ministry, perhaps this ministry’s work is most noticeable. Highway construction remains the most tangible sign of development due to short gestation time and therefore the works here are most visible. He even earned rousing appreciation from opposition leaders in parliament led by Sonia Gandhi for his continuous push for developing and improving the country’s infrastructure for last five years. Here are some notable achievements from the tenure of Nitin Gadkari as India’s Road Transport, Highways, Shipping and Ganga Rejuvenation minister.
Speed of highway construction – Highway construction speed has picked up to 30 km per day translating into 10,800 kilometres in last financial year, from 11 kilometres per day in 2014, in UPA government. NDA – 1 government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee is remembered for constructing golden quadrilateral project connecting 4 metros of India. Unfortunately, infrastructure, especially in the road sector, remained neglected in UPA era.
One example of Nitin Gadkari’s efficiency is the construction of Eastern and Western peripheral highways around Delhi in the record time of 3 years. Though Supreme Court had ordered its construction way back in 2005 to combat Delhi’s pollution, nothing happened till 2014. After Nitin Gadkari took charge of this ministry, files moved at record speed and both highways stand completed today. You can read about the unique features of these world-class highways here. Similarly, NH – 24 stretch in Delhi which was infamous for its traffic jams running into hours, has become smooth ride now. Those who live in Delhi would know what I am referring to.
National Highways totalling a length of over 65,000 kilometres are being constructed under Bharat Mala scheme, which refers to an extensive network of new and existing national highways crisscrossing the entire nation. Till now around 40,000 kilometres of new roads have been declared as national highways. The government also completed 40% of 700 ongoing national highways project in the last 4 years, pointing out the efficiency of the government which is often marred by red tape culture. During the last financial year (2017 – 18) government constructed a record of 9,829 kilometres of national highways.
Northeastern states got special attention on infrastructure development during this government’s term, and several projects started by previous governments but not completed were expedited by this government. The most prominent among them is the Bogibeel rail-road bridge over the Brahmaputra in Assam, which was under construction for the last two decades. Before Modi government, there were 3 bridges over Brahmaputra, and in the last 5 years, 3 more bridges were completed and opened for traffic, which shows that speed of work done by this government.
FasTag – Toll Roads are a reality in India now, and all major roads have been developed through privatization and toll is collected on them. Due to queue at toll plazas, there was wastage of time and fuel, negating the benefits of good roads saving time and fuel. According to one study fuel worth Rs 70,000 crore was wasted by vehicles standing in the queue.
To come over this, MoRTH has introduced prepaid Radio Frequency (RFID) tags to be pasted on the windscreen of the vehicle. As the vehicle passes through the dedicated lane for Fastag users, toll amount is automatically deducted from the prepaid account, negating the need for vehicles to stop and scramble for cash at toll plazas saving fuel and time. MoRTH has also mandated all new vehicles manufactured from December 2018, to have Fastag affixed on windscreens of the vehicles either at the factory itself or at the dealership before delivering the car to the customer.
Shipping – Like Bharatmala, shipping ministry has undertaken port and coastal zone development projects by the name of Sagarmala, which envisages investments worth $120 billion in phase wise manner in 577 projects from 2015 – 2035. These projects will result in savings of $6 billion (Around 40,000 crore) per year from 2025, which would bring the logistic cost down. As of March 2018, of 577 projects, 492 projects are already in various stages of implementation, development and completion. 577 projects consist of:
- Port modernization – 245 projects (US$21 billion);
- Connectivity enhancement – 210 projects (US$36 billion);
- Port-linked industrialization – 57 projects (US$68 billion); and,
- Coastal community development – 65 projects (US$1 billion).
Since most of us don’t have any connection with oceans, won’t understand the enormity of these projects, but those into the logistics sector, and especially connected with the oceanic transport sector would definitely understand this. Indian ports have earned record profits of Rs 5,000 crore last year.
Inland Waterways – Government has decided to use the network of extensive rivers across length and breadth of the country for transportation as well as passenger movement and developing waterways accordingly. Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) though existed since 1986, came to the life in Modi government with actual work on the development of inland waterways starting. Recently first container ship travelled from Haldia in West Bengal to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. This was never thought of in India.
Cruise – Though the Cruise Shipping Policy was announced in 2008, there was no movement in the development of cruise tourism. NDA government made real movement and developed exclusive cruise terminals at 5 major ports – Mumbai, Mormugao (Goa), Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai. Governments efforts have resulted in India getting its first domestic cruise service between Mumbai and Goa.
Jumping to BS 6 fuel – Bharat Stage – 6 (BS6) fuel norms are comparable to Euro 6 emission norms. Sulphur content in BS6 fuel is 10 PPM (Particles per Million) which results in lower emissions. Currently, this is the best quality of fuel available anywhere in the world. India is currently using BS 4 norms for fuel. Ideally, the country would have gone first to BS 5 norms and then to BS 6 norms. However, the government in view of rising air pollution decided to skip BS 5 altogether, and straight away jumped to BS 6 norms. While Delhi has already started selling BS 6 fuel from April, 2018, it would be available in rest of the country by April 2020. Earlier BS 5 fuel was to be rolled out by April 2019 and BS 6 by April 2023, however, India will have access to cleaner fuel 3 years before.
AC compulsory for driver cabin for truck manufacturers – Truck drivers and cleaners form an important part of logistics and supply chain in India, as most of the goods transport happens through roads. Government has now made mandatory for truck manufacturers to install air conditioning/air ventilation system in truck cabins for the comfort of truckers and to lessen their fatigue and thereby reducing accidents. Though ministry had first made the provision of providing AC compulsorily in truck cabins, later it gave an option of air ventilation systems too due to feedback and demand of the industry.
Airbags and speed limit reminders – Government has made car manufacturers to compulsorily install airbags, and speed limit indicators in by June 30, 2019. From July 1, 2019, no car can be sold without having these mandatory features. Currently, though the cars have such features, they are often found in higher variants of the cars. This move will make automobile manufacturers to give these features even in base models of the cars. In addition to above cars will also have reverse parking sensors and manual override for central locking systems, to prevent mishaps like children accidently locking car from inside and suffocating to death or cars submerging in floods etc.
Automatic headlamps on (AHO) – Government has also made mandatory for two-wheeler manufactures to have AHO feature for two-wheelers, which means the headlamps of two-wheelers would compulsorily remain on all the time even during the day when it is running, to make their spotting easy and avoid accidents. A similar feature has also been made for car manufacturers where they have to have DRL (Daylight Running Lights) compulsorily in new cars making the visibility easier. Both the moves are in line with many countries globally, where such rules have already been enforced.
Boost to E Vehicles – This government is coming out with first comprehensive electric vehicle policy and want at least 15 % of total vehicles to be E –Vehicles by 2023. E-vehicles are completely pollution free and would go in a long way to contain air pollution.
Boost to alternative fuel – Nitin Gadkari is fond of alternative fuels is a fact which isn’t hidden from anyone. His expertise in roads and automobiles would put even a person who has spent lifetime in the sector to shame. His often speaks about ‘Best from Waste’. To reduce India’s huge import bill of crude oils, he is working to strengthen ecosystem for alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol etc. which can be made from domestically available resources and would also help farmers in increasing their incomes.
We have already dwelled into Namami Gange initiative of River Rejuvenation Ministry under the article which highlighted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives. Under this ministry, all the rivers in the countries would be freed of water pollution on the lines of Namami Gange.
Under the ‘Roadkari’ minister, India has truly seen a sea change in India’s infrastructure in the last five years. To continue the development in this sector and make Indian infrastructure truly world-class, India, Varanasi and Nagpur needs to vote for the BJP, Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari once again and repose faith in them to take India to the next level.
The author is journalism pass out from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. After dangerously flirting with the idea of left during his IIMC days, due to the proximity of the IIMC with JNU, a den of radical leftists, he became firmly aligned to right after realizing the futility of the left. He tweets at @kpophale.