The Modi government has completed 8 years. It involves a stupendous coming back in power as well. However, things have not been the same and Ministries have been subject to multiple reshuffling. Well, the evolving nature of time is the main reason behind it. But, with time, Nitin Gadkari has also changed himself. This is the main reason why his portfolio as the Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India has not changed. Let’s have a look at the achievements of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under the tutelage of PM Modi and the Charismatic Gadkari.
Enhanced pace of Connectivity drive
India has been lamented left, right and centre for not having sufficient infrastructure enabling faster product delivery. The criticism may be bad in spirit, but it definitely had a base in reality. The road infrastructure has been bad for most of our last 100 years of history. Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee did try to change it but after he lost in 2004, India had once again lost the momentum.
Nitin Gadkari brought Vajpayee’s spirit in 2014. Within one year of taking oath, he launched an innovative Bharatmala project. It envisaged connecting a total of 34,800 km of Road through a total funding of Rs 5.35 lakh crore. Various corridors such as economic corridors, inter corridors and feeder routes, national corridor efficiency improvement, border and international connectivity roads, coastal and port connectivity roads and greenfield expressways are under the ambit of Bharatmala. Later, PM Modi also launched the Gati Shakti scheme, subsuming Rs 110 lakh National Infrastructure pipeline in it.
The massive infrastructure spending bore fruits as well. When Nitin Gadkari took on the challenge, India was building Highways at the meagre pace of 12 km per day. By the end of Financial Year 2021, India tripled its speed and is now building roads at 36.4 km per day. Gadkari has publicly stated that he plans to take this speed to 100 km per day. Official statistics say that Gadkari has overseen the construction of 1,41,000 km of Highways by the end of 2021.
Massive connectivity drive in North East
Unfortunately, the North-Eastern part of India had been the most neglected region of the country. It was mainly due to the lack of connectivity the region had with other parts of India. Except for Assam, Indians did not have much connection with the region. Believe it or not, roads were so deformed that it was cheaper to get to many parts of the North-East by flight.
Ministry of Road Transport and Highways prioritised connectivity over the Brahmaputra River and the hilly terrains of the northeast. The government approved the construction of the longest river bridge between the states of Assam and Meghalaya to be completed by 2026. The river bridge will shorten 203 km of existing distance between Dhubri in Assam to Phulbari in Meghalaya and bring it down to 19.3 km. It will be the longest river bridge in the country, leaving behind the 9.3 km long Dhola-Sadiya Bridge which is built on the Lohit River, a tributary of the mighty Brahmaputra. The Dhola-Sadiya Bridge was inaugurated by PM Modi in May 2017.
Currently, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is on its way to fulfilling its target of constructing 4,000 km of roads in the region. In fact, a key part of the Bharatmala project is incomplete without the involvement of North Eastern states. In the Northeast, Bharatmala encompasses Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and right up to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Mizoram.
Changes in Traffic rules
62 per cent of Indians are young. Youth means energy, youth means exuberance. But, when youth is not channelled well, Indian roads become the focal playground of youth in India. Road accidents and fatal deaths in India owe mainly to youth not adapting to traffic rules. Elders also do it but in a little less aggressive manner. Over the years, the government tried to persuade them, but they did not change. So, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways decided to bring in punitive measures.
It made Aadhar mandatory for a driving licence. Similarly, to control juveniles’ penchant for rash driving, it made their parents directly responsible for the crime. Authorities can even cancel the registration of such vehicles. Similarly, to help accident victims and through Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill, it absolved the helpers of victims from any legal liability related to the accident.
Moreover, to protect those who do not follow rules, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways started to fine heavily. For not following proper helmet guidelines, you can be charged Rs 2,000 by traffic police. Similarly, drunk driving now entails Rs 10,000 fine. Fines for other misconducts like driving without licence/insurance/seat belt, overloading, and ringing horn in silent zones among others were also substantially increased.
Removed Chinese investment
In professional political circles, it is assumed that domestic policies have nothing to do it foreign relations. While the two countries may be fighting with each other, one of them may need investment from the enemy. But, not under Nitin Gadkari at least.
When China attacked Indian soldiers in Galwan valley, the war cry was heard all over the country. It was the cry for the exclusion of Chinese firms and products from the Indian markets. Gadkari took the initiative on the Ministerial level and announced that China would not be allowed to participate in any ventures, projects and assignments for the sectors falling under him. Gadkari was so strict in his overtures that he categorically banned any kind of Chinese investment. In any Highway or Road Construction project, Chinese firms can’t even form any joint ventures with Indian companies.
Drive for introducing Electrical Vehicles in India
Let’s face it. Petrol and Diesel cars are not the future. Both fuels are dying a slow and excruciating death. India needs to adapt to future needs as well. Well, the civilisation state could not find a better leader than Nitin Gadkari to lead its EV push.
Gadkari launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles (FAME) in 2015. It was distributed in two phases. Under phase-I, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways ensured that infrastructure for private EVs was put in place, making it easier for people to adopt. In the second phase of FAME, MoRTH ensured that public transport also came under its purview as well.
Then arrived the bumper PLI scheme for EVs. The Modi government allotted Rs 26,058 crore for the Auto sector. Special emphasis was laid down on the adoption of Electric vehicles. Currently, charging infrastructure is being laid down in the country with tremendous speed. E-Highways are soon going to be the future for Indian vehicle owners. Moreover, to remove dependence on lithium-ion batteries, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is also focussing on encouraging the production of Hydrogen-powered Electric vehicles as well. The extent to which India has advanced in the sector can be gauged from the fact that Elon Musk has become a mute spectator as his Tesla is not able to compete in our market.
During the last 8 years, Gadkari has made it possible for a person from Kanyakumari to reach Kashmir in an astoundingly short interval of time. He has been the backbone of India’s infrastructure push, which has created millions of jobs among other achievements. Targets are continuously upgrading and tough times await him. But, Gadkari is every ready.