Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will always be remembered as the architect of the Golden Quadrilateral, the series of modern highways that connected the four corners of the country. But his vision of a truly connected India is now being brought to complete fruition by Union Road, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari. He has already overseen the rapid construction of the long-delayed Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways around Delhi, which have helped mitigate traffic and pollution. Now, he is determined to finish the flagship Delhi-Mumbai corridor in the next three years and this will be a part of 22 expressways and highways, of which 16 are greenfield projects. The total cost of the project to be completed by 2025 is Rs 3.10 lakh crore. This is truly a massive infrastructure scheme that will connect every part of India with (relatively) high-speed roads. Gadkari has been transformational to Indian roads. His dogged determination led to amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, a good start to stop the chaos on our roads. While the Minister was roundly mocked for his threat to bulldoze the Indian automotive industry if it does not change a few years ago, major car-makers are now producing electric vehicles. Some manufacturers such as Tata Motors have taken the veils off their “Made In India” electric vehicles, making them available for sale for a smallish premium over regular internal combustion engine vehicles.
However, despite the dramatic building project, Gadkari’s legacy will not be complete until he manages to rein in heavy traffic. There is still wanton ignorance or outright disobedience of traffic rules across the country. While the issuance of licences and managing traffic is a State subject, poor traffic rule compliance is an all-India affliction. In cities like Pune, local politicians of all colours have taken it upon themselves to openly flout helmet provisos. With over 150,000 people dying on India’s roads annually, poor traffic management and road design, India loses at least a percentage point of annual growth if not more to all these causes. At a time when economic growth has anyway stalled, it seems to be as good a time as any to whip order onto Indian roads. The reduction in fatalities and injuries will have as dramatic an impact as all the new expressways that are being built. Roads are the nation’s blood vessels, carrying people and goods across the length and breadth of the country. Like in a human body, when blood vessels get blocked, or in this case choked, the nation suffers economic consequences. Building new roads will solve the problem to a certain degree. For that, Gadkari’s legacy is all but certain. But can he leave a greater legacy?
(Courtesy: The Pioneer)