Road minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said he would any day like a higher budgetary allocation for road development and transport, but is happy with what has been allocated to his ministry.
Gadkari was speaking on the sidelines of the union budget 2017-18 presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday.
The government has allocated a total of Rs64,900 crore for roads and highways, under the ministry of road, transport and highways and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), a 12 per cent increase from the 2016-17 budget of Rs 57,976 crore for the sector.
However, the allocation is far below than Gadkari’s actual demand for the road transport sector this year, which was reportedly more than Rs90,000 crore.
“My expectations are always more. I don’t have a fund crunch in my department. If I monetise 100 projects now, I will immediately get 1.25 lakh crore. There is tax exemption on masala bonds. I have enough money. The problem is with the mindset. There should be fast tracking of decisions, solving issues of environment, forest and other clearance and moving ahead fast,” Gadkari said.
Talking to DNA, about the priority projects of his ministry, Gadkari said constructing more national highways, the Rs2.6 lakh crore Bharat Mala project under which the government is mulling construction of 25,000 km of roads along India’s borders, coastal areas, ports, religious and tourist places and district headquarters and the Setu Bharatam scheme.
“Yesterday, I announced two new express highway projects in Madhya Pradesh. We are increasing the road length to the current 96,000 km to 2lakh km. We have given Assam and Andhra Pradesh Rs1 lakh crore for road projects. We will soon meet the target of constructing roads at the rate of 40 km per day,” Gadkari told DNA, emphasising that things are moving fast and there is no shortage of funds.
He added that he has sought from the Centre the total loss amount incurred by toll booths during demonetisation period when the toll collection was suspended, which would not be part of the budget.
Talking about road safety, Gadkari said an amount of Rs11,000 crore has already been allocated for the improvement of black spots or accident-prone spots on roads.
“Funds for roads safety will be used for installation of crash barriers, marking system, signal system so that animals don’t end up coming on roads,” he said.
However, he hailed the budget as revolutionary, pro-agriculture and pro-poor, and said infrastructure space has been a major beneficiary of the budget and the government prioritised sectors like highways, waterways and multi-modal hubs, which would bring down pollution and improve congestion.
Aside the Rs64,900 crore for road ministry, the union budget has also earmarked Rs27,000 crore for its rural roads development programme, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), under the rural development ministry, which together makes it more than Rs91,000 crore for road development.
The government has also identified around 2,000 kilometres of coastal roads to be developed for better port connectivity.
The union budget has allocated a lion’s share of Rs3.95 lakh crore to infrastructure development and termed it as the top priority of the government.