NATIONAL PRIDE: THE GOLDEN QUADRILATERAL
Kilometre by kilometre,
India is building what can aptly be called its national pride.
This is by way of taking in hand the largest-ever highway project
seeking to connect the four corners of the country as well as
the four metropolitan cities with world class roads and uninterrupted
traffic flow. Under this ambitious National Highway Development
Project (NHDP), work is proceeding apace on 4/6 laning of approximately
14,850 km road network through the length and breadth of the country.
The Prime Minister,
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visionary project, the NHDP’s first
phase includes the Golden Quadrilateral which seeks to connect
the metro cities of Delhi-Mumbai-Chennai-Kolkata-Delhi. Work on
the second phase relating to the creation of a North-South corridor
connecting Srinagar with Kanyakumari and on the East-West corridor
linking Silchar with Porbandar is also underway simultaneously.
road transport has remained under-utilised, Shri Vajpayee visualized
far-reaching reforms in this sector. The result is this high profile
highway project. The Prime Minister hopes that upon its completion
the project will place India on the fast lane to socio-economic
development. He had laid the foundation stone of the project on
January 6, 1999. Work on the two phases is at various stages and
is officially stated to be going on satisfactorily. The National
Highways Authority of India, an autonomous body under the Ministry
of Road Transport and highways, is executing the project. The
originally stipulated cost of the project is Rs. 54,000 crore.
Quadrilateral, so nicknamed because of its geographical contours,
manifested in the linking of the metros, a total of 5,850 km of
road length is to be built. Since its inception the project is
racing towards its completion in five years. The corridor project
envisaging a 7,300 km road length is to be completed by the end
The cost break-up
of the quadrilateral and the corridor projects is envisaged at
Rs. 24,000 and Rs. 30,000 crore respectively. Finding resources
of such magnitude was indeed a challenge. But, through a landmark
decision the Union Government imposed a nominal cess of rupee
one per litre on petrol and diesel. The fund so collected is being
put aside in a non-lapsable Central Road Fund (CRF). An equal
sum will be provided by the World Bank and the Asian Development
Bank. Rs. 10,000 crore will come from market borrowings and the
remaining Rs. 4,000 crore from the private sector. It is noteworthy
that such huge funds are being mobilized for the first time for
road development in the country.
Apart from the
existing world-class roads, the project’s focus is on enhanced
safety, better riding surface and road geometry, traffic management
and noticeable signages. The other features are divided carriageways
and service roads, grade separators, over-bridges and underpasses
for uninterrupted traffic flow, bypasses and wayside amenities
along with ambulances and cranes. According to a World Bank study,
this will result in an annual saving of about Rs. 8,000 crore
at 1999 prices on the Golden Quadrilateral alone. It is to be
noted that Indian firms are competing successfully and have bagged
a majority of contracts.
the country’s road construction industry, the Central Government
has offered many concessions and incentives to them. They include
income tax exemption for 10 years from earnings from the Project
and total customs duty exemption on road building equipment not
being produced in the country. In the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT)
scheme, grants up to 40 per cent has been permitted.
bonds floated by the National Highways Authority of India, which
is charged with the execution of the project, have been exempted
from capital gains. Attractive incentives have also been announced
for time-bound completion of work by the participating companies.
To assure quality, however, they have to give a five-year guarantee
for the executed work.
As of today,
over 40 per cent of Indian roads are unsurfaced Seen against the
backdrop of an explosion in vehicular traffic there is a clear
strain on the road network. That our national highways, which
constitute barely two per cent of the total network, carry about
40 per cent of the total traffic is ample illustration of the
tremendous pressure on this crucial infrastructure.
In a country
where 43 per cent reads are unsurfaced and just 25 per cent motorable,
the benefits of such a project are incalculable. Imagine that
slow movement of commercial vehicles results in an annual loss
of Rs. 30,000 crore. Poor maintenance of the national highways
causes a huge wear and tear and consequent obstruction in traffic
flow. In this backdrop the initiative taken by the Government
in the road transport sector to overhaul the system generates
In plain terms,
the initiative will result in colossal economic and social gains.
It will give a big push to the road construction industry, lead
to a huge growth in cement and steel demands, 40 lakh and three
lakh metric tonnes annual requirement, boost trade and business,
result in savings in vehicle operating costs and ensure faster,
comfortable, smoother and safer road journeys. Most importantly,
it will generate huge employment opportunities. It is estimated
that an average of 40 persons are engaged per day per km length,
creating 73 million mandays in a year. It will also mean a big
boost to the rural economy by way of providing direct and faster
access from the hinterland to the main marketing centers in the
metros and other towns.
The NHDP is India’s
biggest road project since Sher Shah Suri built the Grand Trunk
Road in the 16th century. Day-by-day an average of 17 km of single-length
national highway and five km of 4-laned roads are being added
to the network,. Whereas India built just 556 km of 4/6 lane highways
in the last 50 years, the accomplishment during the 1999-2007
period would be a record 14,850 km. A special feature of this
most ambitious infrastructure project is port connectivity. The
major ports such as Haldia, Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Tuticorin,
Kochi, Mangalore, Mormugoa and Kandla are also being connected
by superfine roads.
recently, over 1,350 km long road networks under the Golden Quadrilateral
and over 850 km under the Corridor Project have been completed.
Many important portions have already been opened to traffic. Work
on the remaining part of the programme is in different stages
of completion. To quote the Prime Minister, when completed, the
project will further integrate our great land through a network
of world-class highways. This will place India on the fast lane
to socio-economic development. Indeed, on the highway to prosperity!