Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping is known as man of action. Continuing his spree of building roads, bridges and road connectivity by addressing all the bottlenecks, he talks in terms of targets and amounts like a CEO. At the same time, cross-subsidisation through corporate involvement in urban areas and providing maximum amenities in rural areas is at the core of his thinking. He shared his achievements of two years and plans for coming three years with Organiser. Here are the excerpts:
The NDA government has completed two years in office and your ministry in discussion for positive reasons. What are the tricks behind this?
See if you do concrete work with positive approach, you will certainly get positive coverage and we are getting that as a government as our prime objective is to fastest delivery with maximum transparency. As far as Road transport ministry is concerned, we firmly believe that real development cannot reach to the common masses unless infrastructural base is created. Whether roads, inland ways or water ways; all these facilities contribute to the progress of the nation. When we took over 403 projects of 3.85 lac crores were in limbo due to various reasons. After incessant efforts including the banks, local representatives, contractors etc, we have cleared most of them barring 14 projects. We also ensured fair compensation to the land owners so they are also happy to contribute in this development process. We have given contracts of 2 lac crores for road development and 60 thousand crores for water and inland connectivity. In next, three years we have a target of completing the target of 25 lac crores of total infrastructure work, with the rate of 41 kms/day. This will contribute 2 to 3 percent of total GDP. I am confident that we will achieve this target.
Many new highway projects are also proposed, aren’t they?
Yes, we are linking Delhi with Meerut. Delhi to Katra is an important stretch as many people visit VIashno Devi through this route. The distance is covered in 12 hours. With the proposed connectivity via Jind in Haryana, the same distance will be covered in 4 hours. This will also facilitate the development in backward regions of Haryana. Delhi-Jaipur alignment is cleared. Delhi-Haridwar patch is known for traffic jams, we are doing that work on fast track. Muzaffarnagar-Dehradun stretch is almost done. Similarly we are addressing connectivity from other important destinations to the interior areas.
Any flagship achievements, in the last two years?
The tragedy of Uttarakhand was horrifying. We decided that it should not happen again. The problem was road connectivity towards Badrinath, Kedarnath and Uttarkashi was aligned with the river banks. Obviously, with floods roads get damaged. After taking over charge of the ministry, we started working on every aspect of the road project in this area and decided to create a completely new alignment for Gangotri Yamnotri and Badrinath Kedarnath which will be a three lane concrete road costing 12000 crores, 1100 Km road. This will be all-weather road conectivity through tunnel without getting affected by any natural calamity. We are also taking care of all the security concerns. The work of around Rs 800 crore is already assigned and Hon Prime Minister will soon dedicate this to the nation. This will be a great relief for the prilgrims coming from all over the world. We are also taking care basic amenities like hospitals, fuel stations, restaurants on the roadside. At the same time, we are exploring the possibility of promoting local handicrafts in this area. This will be a great achievement.
The number of pilgrims is increasing for Man Sarovar Yatra. Any plan for them?
Manas Sarovar is another important place of pilgrimage. We are developing a shortest route road connectivity from Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand to the China border from where one can go to Manas Sarovar. In this stretch 42 KMs is most difficult as there is no option but to cut the Himalayan Ranges. We have already got a machinery to do this work from Australia. I am sure by next May this road will be functional. It will be another landmark.
Religious tourism seems to be high on your agenda.
See in Bharat many people travel for religious purpose, even tourism is largely connected with religious beliefs. Therefore, we have given orders to Highway Authority to connect all the important places of pilgrimage and tourism through roads as a circuit. For instance, we are linking Dehu and Alandi to Pandharpur, the route on which thousands of people walk-down for kilometres together. We are developing a separate Palakhi marg to avoid any disturbance or traffic congestion during yatra. Somnath to Dwarka is also being developed as a four lane road while a bridge is being developed between Dwarka and Bet (island) Dwarka will be connected with a automated track.
Sita was from Nepal so a road is proposed to connect Janakpur there. Similarly a Ramayan circuit is being developed with the investment of 15000 crores to connect all the places Prabhu Ramchandra visited during his 14 years of exile. The Buddha circuit is being developed as well to connect Banaras, Sarnath, Bodhgaya and Lumbini.
We also want to important historic places. For instance, at Alibaugh fort, we are starting light and sound show as a tribute to Kanhoji Angre, naval chief of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. With all these efforts, we will not only contribute to the development but will also conserve the religious and cultural heritage of our nation.
Mere construction of roads is not sufficient. Are there any plans to provide with other facilities for the commuters?
Along with road development, roadside amenities are our focus area. We have already identified 1300 stretches where multiple facilities will be created. Tenders for 70 routes are already floated. This will not be merely a stopover place to ease, to have food but also an attempt to give all over experience of that place. For example, Muradabad in Uttar Pradesh is known for brass, we are creating a museum depicting art and activities pertaining to the brass industry. Local handicrafts also will be promoted. Other 3 star facilities of food joints will also be there. As per the locations, fruits, vegetables, Chat, wood or glass work will also be available. Commuters will avail the facilities while local artisans will get business opportunities. These places will be known as ‘Highway Villages’.
There are also talks about waterways and international water connectivity. What are the developments on that front?
See we have got long maritime borders on both the sides, we need to use them. We are developing ports with private partnerships. Sagarmala project will facilitate waterways trade. Our neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar have a huge trade potential, we are working on that. Chabahar is the real game changer in this. The previous NDA government had conceptualised this project, we are making it a reality. Not only from trade point of view but strategically also it is very important as Pakistan cannot be a barrier in our trade routes.
All these efforts will require huge financial allocation. How you are planning to get that?
I have done this as a PWD minister in Maharashtra. My simple principle is give best urban facilities with charges like toll for the people who can afford it and use budgetary allocation for rural infrastructure so that the poor and underprivileged are benefited. Our political philosophy of Antyodaya is also based on this. If you have a positive approach and confidence of stake holders in your initiatives, then everything is possible. Finances are just means, right approach is the key.