In the last six years, one of the key focus areas of the Modi government has been infrastructure building. From roads to railway, airways to waterways, infrastructure was built at an unprecedented rate in the country in the last six years. Thanks to the fall in oil prices, the government has been able to divert the savings on oil imports to infrastructure development.
The latest infrastructural marvel built by the Modi government is the Atal Tunnel, built to improve connectivity to Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Each day 3,000 cars and 1,500 can pass through the Atal Tunnel which will not only help the civilian population but Indian armed forces too.
“The Atal tunnel will give new strength to India’s border infrastructure. It is an example of world-class border connectivity. There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but, for a long time, such projects either couldn’t get out of the planning stage or got stuck midway,” the Prime Minister said in his inauguration speech.
“This tunnel is not only important to Himachal, but also because it facilitates a connection to Ladakh. People who live in the mountains would know the significance of cutting down travel time by four or five hours,” the Prime Minister added.
For decades India lagged behind in infrastructure development near the Chinese border areas which gave Chinese troops strategic advantage against Indian armed forces. However, in the last six years, the infrastructure deficit near Chinese border- from Arunachal Pradesh to Ladakh- has been addressed by the Modi government and this is one of the reasons behind Chinese frustration which resulted in border stand-off.
The Prime Minister slammed opposition for not addressing infrastructure deficit in the border areas. “There was no political will. I can talk about dozens of projects that are important from the strategic point of view, but for years they were neglected,” he said, adding, “Nothing is more important to us than protecting the country… the nation has seen an era when defence interests were compromised.”
There has been a very low investment in the road construction sector by the UPA government because various welfare programmes like MGNREGA had constrained the government from financing infrastructure building. The central government’s spending on infrastructure increased exponentially under the first term of the Modi government. In the first year, the government allotted only 1.81 lakh crore rupees for infrastructure and this increased to 5.97 lakh crore rupees in 2018-19. The spending tripled in the last five years with a total spending 19.36 lakh crore rupees.
Now the Modi government has decided to spend 102 trillion rupees on infrastructure in the next five years, as promised in the BJP’s 2019 general election manifesto. On Tuesday this week, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), under which the government has identified 23 sectors across 18 states and union territories, where projects worth 102 trillion rupees investment is planned for the next five years.
Previously, the finance minister said that 39 percent of 102 trillion spending would come from the central government, a similar amount will be spent by the state governments while the rest 22 percent from the private sector. As per the data provided by the government, projects worth 42.7 trillion rupees (43 percent) are under implementation, 32.7 trillion rupees (33 percent) projects are in conceptualization stage, while 19.1 trillion (19 percent) projects are under development.
The Modi government’s ambitious target to invest 100 trillion dollars in the next five years will help to achieve the 5 trillion economy by 2024 goal. The precedence of China and other East Asian economies show that investment in infrastructure is the most crucial factor for sustained economic growth.