Budget 2018: The Union Budget 2018 to be presented on February 1 by finance minister Arun Jaitley is likely to focus on developing infrastructure to connect India. This budget 2018 is very important for the Modi government as it will set the pace for him in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and his plans to make India an even a stronger force in the world. And in order to achieve that, Arun Jaitley is likely to make huge announcements on ‘Connecting India’ through the means of developing infrastructure, suggests a report in the Indian Express. Hints about the development of infrastructure across the nation have been dropped since last year.
Announcements regarding the Department of Telecommunications’ BharatNet project can be made in the budget 2018. The BharatNet project aims to provide broadband internet connection in various villages across India. In fact, in its first phase, over more than 1 lakh gram panchayats were connected with high-speed optical fibre network as of December 31. The project aims to get more than 250,000 to be connected to the internet by March 2019. Hence, the budget 2018 may have some announcements about this project. As of December 31 in its first phase, the total length of optical fibre cable of 254,895 km was laid. The length of the wire connected with 1.09 lakh gram panchayats. Although, the Centre aims to complete the second phase, which is set for March 2019. As per a DoT official, funds have been kept aside by the Finance Ministry.
In the financial year 2017-18, the ministry of finance reserved Rs 10,000 crore to the BharatNet project. The year before that, that is, in 2016-17, Rs 6,000 crore was allocated by the ministry of finance. Although, after Goods and Services Tax that came into play, it will be interesting to see how much Arun Jaitley will allocate in the budget 2018 to the BharatNet project.
It is not just the internet connectivity that is on the cards in the budget 2018, to make infrastructure robust, Arun Jaitley has dropped hints about developments in the civil aviation as well as developments of roads as well.
Budget 2018: Announcements expected in Aviation
The Civil Aviation ministry wants to expand air connectivity to rural areas, and budget 2018 may be key for that. The ministry is likely to go ahead and connect the unserved and underserved airports across India under RCS or the Regional Connectivity Scheme. In its phase one, around 128 routes were given to the airlines, however, the flights on these airports commenced only on half of these routes and that too until December 2018. One of the major reasons was due to the absence of basic infrastructure at the airports.
In its phase two, the Centre has planned to connect the remote and strategic locations in the North-East and Jammu & Kashmir via air. The Centre has even got hold of 24 such airports and helipads. The Airports Authority of India is developing these airports, and developers have asked for exemptions from the payout of dividend to the government for 2017-18 for the purpose.
Budget 2018: Announcements expected in Roads development
Modi government has plans to build ring roads in India’s 28 major cities. The plan has been sought under the Bharatmala initiative, which provides building blocks to the “connecting India” plan. The approximate cost of the project is likely to be around Rs 36,290 crore. Hence, some major announcements regarding the same are likely to take place in the budget 2018. Ring roads have been planned in all major cities, including Delhi, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Ranchi, Patna, Srinagar and Udaipur.
These projects are part of the Bharatmala initiative announced by the Cabinet last year under which the government plans development of 84,000 km of national highways at an investment of Rs. 6.92 lakh crore by 2022.