Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s big infrastructure project: Last year in October, in order to build a network of four-lane highways linking the four big cities of the country namely, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government proposed to roll out the Bharatmala project. However, the vision behind the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) project, connecting the four cities was of none other than former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was Vajpayee’s dream project, which is undoubtedly the biggest infrastructure project in the roadways sector in post-Independent India. According to an IE report, the Bharatmala project, which was approved by the Cabinet, in many ways is a tribute to the GQ mode of doing things. Sources quoted in the report said that to accept and execute an assembly of projects under the umbrella of the larger approved plan, it empowers the board of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
Officials quoted in the report said that within months after becoming the Prime Minister in 1999, a meeting in the PMO was called by Vajpayee in order to direct the Road Transport Ministry to map out 20 most congested areas of the country and come up with a plan to create four-lane highways in order to ease congestion. The work for linking the four major cities started in less than a year.
For the funding of the project, the former Prime Minister recast the Central Road Fund, a fund traditionally made out of cess on the sale of diesel and petrol. The entire GQ project was not only limited to east-west and north-south corridors but also the diagonal arms through the first two phases of National Highways Development Project (NHDP), worth Rs 64,639 crore, the report stated. By 2012, the original plan of the project was completed.
While the platform of Pragati has been institutionalised by the current regime, wherein the Prime Minister takes stock of all infrastructure projects to remove obstructions, there was a similar system under the Vajpayee regime for the GQ project. A senior ministry official said that the pace of work under Vajpayee’s regime was such that 90 per cent plan of the GQ project was implemented within four years.
Under the GQ project, many roads were laid with Hot Mix Plants for bitumen for the first time; medians were introduced as a matter of design and safety features such as guardrails were incorporated; and also it included bringing consultants from outside for engineering solutions. Another significant contribution of Vajpayee to boost the infrastructure of the country was the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The PMGSY, launched in 2000, aims to provide all-weather rural road connectivity. So far, the project has been able to cover more than 80 per cent of its original target.