Infrastructure has been a priority for the NDA government in the last five years. The government has made a significant investment in public transport, highway construction, railways, water transport, and air connectivity. The large public investment in infrastructure was supported by the oil bonanza which government got in its initial years due to a slump in crude prices. There has been very low investment in the road construction sector by the UPA government because various welfare programs like MGNREGA had constrained the government from financing infrastructure building. The last big push in road development was during the NDA-1 government led by the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The two big infrastructure projects- Golden Quadrilateral Network and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) were started during this time.
BJP has made huge promises on the infrastructure front in the manifesto of 2019 general election with an investment of 100 lakh crore rupees in the next five years. The party also made grand promises in the 2014 general election manifesto and delivered one most of them in the last five years. The Modi government built 2 lakh km of new roads across rural India. In the last four and a half years, the government built 109 km per day compared to 95 km per day under the UPA government.
The Modi government increased the share of money given to rural road construction in total government spending. NDA I spend 0.6 percent of the budget on rural road construction while the UPA government spent 0.95 percent. In 2015-16, the NDA government changed the funding structure of the scheme from fully centrally sponsored scheme to shared funding with a ratio of 60:40. Given the fact that the fourteenth finance commission increased the share in devolutionary taxes to 42 percent from 32, the states could finance rural road construction. NDA II spends 0.83 percent of total budget on rural road construction and 0.75 came from states. Therefore the effective spending on rural road construction crossed 1.5 percent to total central government budget.
When the Modi government came to power in May 2014, only 55 percent of total habitations of the country were connected to roads. In the last five years, it reached 91 percent and by the end of ongoing fiscal year every habitation would be connected to road.
The five poorest states – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh got 50 percent of all new road construction. Most unconnected habitations are in Northeastern states. The Modi government has increased the infrastructure spending in the northeast considerably, in upcoming years villages in these states would be connected.
Rural roads are a major component of India’s road network accounting for 73 percent of the 17 lakh km total road length. The highway construction under Modi government also exceeded any other government in post-independence India. The Gadkari led ministry built 60-70 percent more highways compared to previous governments.
The rural roads are helpful in generating non-agricultural jobs that are crucial for the rural economy. These roads also provide transportation facilities for the agricultural produce and farmers get better return for grains by selling it in bigger markets. The road construction spree by NDA government would help the rural economy as well as overall GDP growth. This would also help the party in upcoming general election.