Despite pandemic and lockdown, India has constructed 13,298 km of highways in 2020-21 financial year that ended in March.
Shy of 37 km per day (36.4 km) of average construction pace, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari called it a “world record” on Thursday. This is 29 per cent more highway stretches built than in the previous fiscal year.
Gadkari said the target would be even more in the coming years.
The amount of contracts awarded in the same period also saw similar growth as the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways through its various arms awarded 10,467 km worth of projects.
“When Modiji asked me which ministry I wanted, I had asked for Roads ministry. He had asked me to remember that Roads ministry didn’t feature in the top five performing ministries at that time. But I told him, I didn’t want any of the top five ministries, I wanted Roads because I felt I could do a good job here. Today I felt like sharing this,” Gadkari said on Thursday, at a function to to celebrate the achievement.
When the NDA government took over, there were 406 highway projects worth Rs 3.85 lakh crore stalled due to various reasons.
Recalling days of the Emergency and afterwards when the BJP would lose all elections, Gadkari said there was a time when BJP would not win elections. “All our deposits would be forfeited. But finally we did come to power. Similarly, when I said we would make 40 km of roads per day, it seemed impossible then, even to our engineers. But here we are today,” he said.
In 2014-15, the sector could construct 4,410 km of highways. Average annual construction from then to now increased by 83 per cent, compared to the previous five years.
Giridhar Aramane, Secretary, MoRTH, said this feat was possible after the sector was energised by a series of policy initiatives, including dispute resolution at the level of contractors to ease the stalled projects and also to liberalise the entry of more players into the construction sector.
The ministry’s budgetary allocation this year is Rs 118,101 crore based on which the target for capital spend has been kept at Rs 1.83 lakh crore.
NHAI Chairman S S Sandhu said if one went by the metric of lane-kilometers — if lengths of multiple lanes in a project are counted – the NHAI constructed is 50 lane km per day.