Road, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari today said road construction would further gather momentum with average addition of 40 km per day from next year. “When we (government) took over, the average road construction was 2 km per day which has now been accelerated to 28 km per day. It will further go up to 40 km per day next year,” he said while replying to debate on the Bill to amend Central Road Fund (CRF) Act 2000. The Act regulates the CRF, that is credited with the cess collected on diesel and petrol. The amount collected is then released to National Highways Authority of India, and to the state/union territory for the development of national and state highways. The amendment bill passed by the Lok Sabha today seeks to allocate a share of this cess towards the development of inland waterways. Emphasising that there is huge requirement of funds for infrastructure development, Gadkari said the government intends to develop 12-15 inland waterways in the next two years with the help and support of all stakeholders.
Twelve major ports with combined profit of Rs 7,000 crore have been asked to invest a portion of their profit for development of waterways. Talking about various initiatives taken by the government to develop inland waterways in the country, he said, “Our first priority is waterways, second railways and third roads.” Work has already started on 10 waterways and tenders have been issued, he said, adding these would be operational by the end of 2018. Terming waterways as the cheapest mode of transportation, he said there are 111 national waterways in the country which can be used for the purpose. Like airports, the country would soon be dotted with sea ports, he said.
“If you have to go to Patna then next time…you will not have to go to airport. Your aircraft will fly from Yamuna front and will stop at the river in Patna…such a revolutionary change is there in this,” he said, adding, many years ago the trade used to happen on the river but slowly it stopped. He announced that Mumbai to Goa cruise would start from next month and there is also plan to start cruise from Mumbai to Andaman and Nicobar. On the Rs 60,000 crore Polavaram project of Andhra Pradesh, the minister promised that this will be completed by 2019. It is resolve of the government to end all inter-state water dispute in its tenure itself by making available enough water to all states, he added.
Participating in the debate, Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP said that through this bill tourism will be developed. Saugata Roy (TMC) said Gadkari is a salesman of dreams. “Gadkariji should present a white paper in the House as to which are the road … been built. He is showing dreams to people. In India the condition of highways is not good.” The minister in his reply said he does not indulge in selling dreams but make efforts towards converting dreams into reality. The present bill seeks to allocate two and a half per cent of the CRF generated to accelerate the development and maintenance of national waterways by reduction of an equal percentage from the share of national highways.
This would tentatively generate about Rs 2,300 crore revenue for national waterways. “This has paved the way for better regulation and development of the national waterways in the country. However, infrastructure such as jetties, terminals, navigational channels, etc. for better shipping and commercial navigation continues to be a challenge,” Gadkari said. In order to suitably develop national waterways, sustainable source of funding is highly necessary as budgetary support and funds from multilateral institutions are inadequate, he said. Other members who participated in the debate included Kushlendra Kumar (JDU), Rajesh Rajan (RJD), Idrish Ali (TMC) and Varaprasad Rao (YSRC).