With govt set to keep driving growth of highways, ministry eyes more funds

With the increased focus of the government on the development of highways and expressways in the country, the roads and highways ministry in the upcoming budget is likely to get budgetary support which will be nearly 20 per cent higher than what it got in the last budget.

Sources said that gross budgetary support in the range of Rs 2.20 lakh crore or more in the upcoming budget for capital and revenue expenditure in the Financial Year 2023-24 is quite likely. In the last budget (FY 2022-23) the Centre had earmarked nearly Rs 1.99 lakh crore as the Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) for the roads and highways ministry.

Government data about budgetary allocation of the Centre for the roads and highways ministry has pointed towards the trend of increasing allocation to the ministry, which underscores the importance being given to expanding and improving the National Highways network across the country.

The Centre’s budgetary allocation in 2017-18 to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways was Rs 59,636 cr and it recorded a substantial jump year after year reaching the mark of Rs 1,99,108 crore in 2022-23.

The ministry had set a target of constructing 12,200 km National Highways during 2022-23, against which 4,766 km had been constructed till November, 2022.

Officials said the speed of construction was affected during the year due to unfavourable weather conditions and the ministry is likely to complete the target of completing 11,000 kms of national highways till March 2023.

They said that higher budgetary allocations in the upcoming budget are necessary to help the ministry to meet the target amid rising interest expenses and increasing land acquisition costs. Moreover, the cost of construction has also gone up substantially in the last couple of months due to rising fuel costs and all these factors call for more allocation.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), the highway construction agency responsible for developing the highways was allocated Rs 1,34,015 crore in 2022-23, which is 100% more than the revised estimate of 2020-21. Sources claimed that the NHAI is likely to be allocated nearly 20 to 30 % more funds in this budget.

Expenditure on the NHAI includes funding for the umbrella highway scheme, Bharatmala Pariyojana, construction of roads and bridges and a few other components.

The government’s ambitious road infrastructure scheme, Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I includes development of about 24,800 km NH network such as Economic corridors, Inter-corridor and feeder roads, National Corridors Efficiency Improvements, Border and International Connectivity roads, Coastal and Port Connectivity roads, Expressways as well as 10,000 km of roads under the balance NHDP.

Apart from development of Highways and Expressways in the country which facilitate logistics efficiency to the Indian economy, 35 Multi Modal Logistics Parks (MMLPs) are to be developed. These would act as major cargo consolidation and distribution hubs.

The implementation of the Bharatmala Pariyojana along with 35 MMLPs in the country is expected to further increase the logistics efficiency, said sources.

Officials said that the upcoming budget is expected to improve road connectivity across the country. The Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I was approved for a length of 34,800 km with an outlay of Rs 5.35 lakh crore. As of December 2022, work for about 23,500 km length had been awarded and about 11,400 km length had been constructed.

The balance projects are targeted for award by Financial Year (FY) 2024-25.

Expenditure under roads and bridges includes development of NHs, projects related to expressways, increasing the number of lanes under various projects, and development of road connectivity in left-wing extremism-affected areas. In 2022-23, the allocation for roads and bridges is Rs 64,573 crore.

20230122-115603

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