The budget document this year has garnered interest from many beyond economic experts reportedly because of its lucid way of articulating a development vision. The allocation figures that are attached with the budget are for the present financial year, but the budget speech did not restrict it to a roadmap for just a year ahead, instead, it has offered a vision for the next five years. We have earlier explained how the budget, in an unconventional way, has offered a win-win deal for agriculture. So, what does this ‘allocation for a year but the vision for five years’ kind of budget mean for India’s connectivity?
Remarkable progress has been made under PM Gram Sadak Yojana as 97% rural habitats are already connected under the scheme.
So, is this mission accomplished? No. The new India strives to take the villages to a higher standard as the budget proposes to invest Rs 80,250 crore more for upgradation of roads under this scheme.
When it comes to National Highways, the interim budet speech mentioned that India is the fastest builder of highways in the world. Bharatmala is effectively creating greater highway infrastructure.
The Budget says in the second phase of Bharatmala, States will be helped to develop State road networks.
Beyond the concept of roads, industrial corridors would improve infrastructure availability for greater industrial investment in the catchment regions.
Sagarmala has already made progress in port connectivity and National Waterways is a concept that was put into the action only after the Modi government came to power. A multimodal terminal at Varanasi has become functional in November 2018.
Two more multimodal terminals on Ganga at Sahibganj and Haldia and a navigational lock at Farakka would be completed in 2019-20. The movement of cargo volume on Ganga is estimated to increase by nearly four times in the next four years. This will make the movement of freight, passenger cheaper and reduce our import bill.
While the government shows further commitment to the development of regional airports, the budget particularly has proposed policy measures to further strengthen the aviation industry. It will frame a policy to facilitate aircraft financing and leasing activities from Indian shores. This is critical to the development of a self-reliant aviation industry, creating jobs in aviation. It has pledged to leverage India’s engineering advantage and potential to achieve self-reliance in the vital aviation segment – Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) industry.
The dedicated freight corridors would mitigate the congestion of our railway network benefitting the common man. The budget has proposed Public-Private Partnership to unleash faster development and completion of tracks, rolling stock manufacturing and delivery of passenger freight services.
The above deliberations deal with all the major mode of transport and the way ahead for each of them. An interesting element to observe in this concerted effort is that it is wedded to the idea of economic and environmental prudence.
- The budget takes the existing FAME schemeforward and says “Only advanced battery and registered e-vehicles will be incentivized under the Scheme with greater emphasis on providing affordable & environment-friendly public transportation options for the common man.”
- At individual level, the budget has made a provision for an additional income tax deduction of Rs 1.5 lakh on interest paid on loans taken to purchase electric vehicles.
It is proved world-over that transportation through waterways is cost-effective and environment-friendly. The budget document has asserted, “this government envisions using the rivers for cargo transportation, which will also help to decongest roads and railways.”
Along with all the connectivity measures in the transport arena, the budget also gives an aspirational picture of another kind of connectivity by stating the goal of ‘one nation – one grid’ to ensure power availability to states at affordable rates. It also speaks about developing gas grids, water grids, i-ways, a promise that was seen in BJP’s manifesto too.
When the nation adopted GST after years of deadlock, it was called as ‘economic unification’. The original image that comes to our mind when we hear the word unification is of that chapter of Independent India in which the decisive action of the then Home Minister Sardar Patel had resulted in the unification of India that was divided among hundreds of princely states. Ever since the Modi government assumed office at the Centre, much neglected regions like Northeast have not only been connected physically but also emotionally with the rest of the nation.
Now, focused efforts in infrastructure connectivity promise to unite India like never before.