It may take several more years to bridge the country’s yawning infrastructure deficit, but there has been tangible progress on the ground in the last couple of years. According to official data reviewed by FE, laying of new railway lines and electrification of rural BPL households exceeded the targets by wide margins in 2016-17 while passenger-handling capacity at airports also surpassed the goal. Besides, the year’s achievements were at par with the targets in case of cargo handling at ports and addition of new-and-renewable-energy capacities. India also built rural roads not much less than planned in the last financial year. The physical progress was, however ,behind targets in the construction of highways and doubling of railway lines.
Half of the 12th Five-Year Plan investments of Rs 38 lakh crore in 12 specified infrastructure sectors materialised in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the last two years of the Plan period. Passenger capacity in airports has reached 28.2 crore last financial year, achieving near parity with the railways in terms of fare, size of the sector and number of passengers carried in air conditioned class. The target for FY17 was 27 crore up from 25 crore reached in FY16 but passenger capacity at airports went up to 28.2 crore in the last fiscal. Thanks also to about 28% drop in airfares, actual passenger movements in airports rose 18% to 26.5 crore in FY17 from FY16.
New tracks of 953 km were laid by railways in 2016-17, 2.4 times the target. However, in terms of doubling of lines, an equally important step in augmenting the rail capacity, the national transporter achieved only half of the targeted 1,600km. The railways however more than met the line electrification target, at 2013km. While construction of rural roads was close to the target, the highways segment, which continues to witness investor apathy, trailed the target by almost half. Aggressive bidding and lower-than-projected toll receipts hit the highway sector and government’s efforts to salvage the sector by a series of steps like easier exists, rescheduling of premium payments and launch of the relatively risk-free hybrid annuity model were not sufficient to bring private investments back on track.
The push for rural electrification helped 22.4 lakh rural BPL households to get access to power, which is 60% more than the target of 14 lakh for last financial year. Officials suggested that the Centre and state governments should launch a special scheme to electrify the estimated 26% rural households which have not yet been covered.