₹5.35 lakh crore for new road project


Bharatmala is an umbrella scheme for road, highways, shipping projects covering border areas, coastal region, ports, religious and tourist places.

In a bid to counter opposition's attacks on the incapability to generate employment, the Centre today announced a mega highway project plan that will give an impetus to spending in infrastructure and create jobs. It is the country's second-largest highways project after the National Highway Development Project that saw development of about 50,000 km of roads and highways.

The BharatMala project will include economic corridors (9,000 km), inter-corridor and feeder route (6,000 km), national corridors efficiency improvement (5,000 km), border roads and worldwide connectivity (2,000 km), coastal roads and port connectivity (2,000 km) and greenfield expressways (800 km). The purposes of this project will include connecting economic corridors, boosting border and worldwide connectivity, as well as connecting coastal roads and inter-linking ports.

Along with increasing the average speed on roads, the government, under this project, also plans to provide uniform four-lane connectivity to all the major cities across the country.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who also addressed the media, later tweeted that the huge public investment in road construction will generate employment.

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On the funding for Bharatmala, Lavasa said debt worth Rs 2.09 lakh crore will be raised, while private investment worth Rs 1.06 lakh crore will be mobilised through the PPP route. This will be financed with Rs 0.97-lakh crore from CRF and Rs 0.59-lakh crore as Gross Budgetary support.

In line with the plan, public sector banks were given Rs 25,000 crore in 2015-16, and similar amount has been earmarked for the following years. However, the rest of the cost will be recovered by fuel cess, private investment and auctioning of completed highways etc. The project, considered to be India's biggest, is aimed at improving economic activity and speeding up traffic flow on key corridors for faster movement of cargo. The first bundle of 9 NH stretches of 680.64 km has been put out to tender by NHAI with potential monetisation value of Rs 6,258 crore.

Port connectivity will also be increased by building 2,000 km of roads in conjunction with Sagarmala.

The announcement comes at a time when growth has slowed to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the quarter ended June 2017. It could well be the biggest announcement ahead of the Election Commission's declaration of the dates for the Gujarat polls.

Meanwhile, to boost tourism and industrial development, 2,100 km of coastal roads have been planned.