Emphasising the need for infrastructure development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched a Rs 50,800-crore ‘Setu Bharatam’ programme that aims at ensuring national highways without railway crossings by 2019 and overhaul of pre-Independence era bridges.
Modi drew a parallel between roads and veins. The roads are of same importance for a nation as veins for a human body, he said.
“The government wishes to make a quantum jump…the importance of roads for a nation is the same as the importance of arteries and veins in the human body,” the PM said, adding that the government’s emphasis is not just on highways, but also on “I-ways (Information ways) and railways”.
Under the project, as many as 208 rail over and under bridges (ROBs/RUBs) would be constructed at unmanned railway crossings on national highways and 1,500 dilapidated British-era bridges would be widened, rehabilitated or replaced in a phased manner at a cost of R20,800 crore and R30,000 crore, respectively.
The road ministry has already appointed 11 consultants for preparing detailed project reports (DPRs) for the ROBs/RUBs. Consultants have submitted 73 DPRs to the ministry that expects to sanction 64 ROBs/RUBs at an estimated cost of R5,600 crore in the current financial year.
For revamping the bridges, the ministry has already invited bids from project consultants for preparing DPRs and hopes to award the consultancy work within this month.
Accusing the previous governments of being in the habit of doing incremental work only, Modi said the approach of the present dispensation was different and this was driven by long-term growth plan aimed at satisfying the long-felt aspirations of people.
“We have taken a comprehensive and integrated approach. We know the problems and we want to change them with strength, not incremental change,” he said.
In an oblique reference to the previous administration which did not do anything to map the bridges and create a database, Modi said, “Nobody knows which bridge is where. Imagine how works were being done. I am not blaming any elected body for this or any prime minister or ministers. This is the flaw of the system. We didn’t accord priority to these things.”
The road ministry has already established a bridge management system with the aim to carry out condition survey including inventorisation of all bridges, around 1,50,000 on national highway system by using mobile bridge inspection units. It has also appointed 11 consultancy to carry out the survey. The first cycle of this condition survey will be completed by June. Till now, inventorisation of 50,000 bridges has been completed.