A new India is in the making with infrastructure which will be no less than that in the US and Europe in five years, and a solid foundation has already been laid with over Rs 17 lakh crore worth of projects in the last five-year period, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday.
Development of backward regions, the northeast and border areas remains one of the topmost priorities of the government, the road transport, highways and MSME minister said.
“In five years time, I can give guarantee that India’s infrastructure will change… It will be no less than US or European countries… A new India is emerging,” Gadkari said at the Times Network India Economic Conclave.
The minister said its foundation has already been laid with a mammoth Rs 17 lakh crore worth of work done in infrastructure in his ministries in the last five years.
He said a network of green expressway corridors is being laid, including the Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai Expressway and added that the 30 km Dwarka Expressway, being built at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore, is an engineering marvel and would result in a Singapore-like place on Delhi’s borders.
He also said border roads are being augmented and about 90 per cent work has been completed on the Kailash Mansarovar route project via Pithoragarh. Work is being done there on war-footing with Australian tunnelling method in minus 8 degree temperatures, he said.
With the completion of this project, the arduous trek through treacherous high-altitude terrain can be avoided by the pilgrims of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and the period of journey will be reduced by many days.
At present, travel to Kailash Mansarovar takes around two to three weeks through Sikkim or Nepal routes.
In addition, work is on in full swing on the Char Dham project to provide all-weather connectivity to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath at a cost of about Rs 12,000 crore, the minister noted. Besides, 17 such highways have been built in Rajasthan and other areas that can double up as airstrips, he said.
Work on the Zojilla tunnel is underway to provide all-weather connectivity to people in Leh and Ladakh who remain cut off from the rest of the country for six months every year, he said.
Gadkari further said the work to develop backward areas should have been initiated earlier as there are places where there are no roads for 200-300 kms, adding that the plight of people living in such areas can well be imagined.
He said the focus was on world-class infrastructure and his ministry has achieved the target of building 35 kms of roads per day in 358 days and exuded confidence that the road building pace will reach 40 kms by the end of the fiscal.
The feat could be achieved despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he said and added that he believed in performance audit of officials besides the financial audit.
The minister said despite the pandemic and farmers’ agitation which resulted in Rs 10,000 crore toll revenue loss, the toll collection this fiscal has been Rs 34,000 crore as against Rs 24,000 crore last year.
He added that despite COVID-19, construction companies’ turnover could double due to massive highways work and said that concerted efforts would result in economic growth.
In reply to query, he said discoms’ loss would be around Rs 7 lakh crore if losses of all states are combined, including Rs 90,000 crore losses for Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh each and Rs 80,000 crore for Maharashtra, as he stressed on minimising it.
On the farmers’ agitation, Gadkari said in a democracy everyone has the right to agitate but they should also think about the hardships caused to ordinary people.
About the upcoming West Bengal elections, the minister said the state was set for change and BJP was a good alternative.