Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari emphasized on collaboration amongst all stake holders for qualitative reforms. Inaugurating the 2-day National Conference ‘MANTHAN – Idea to Action’ he said, we should overcome differences and not think in silos. He said all the stake holders should understand each other’s issues and with mutual consent focus on planning futuristic policies so that the country’s transport is run on the fuel made in India only. The Minister emphasized on qualitative contribution and vision for creating new things for making India the foremost developed country.
The Minister underscored the importance of an integrated approach with multi-modal transportation being at the core if India has to become a five trillion dollar economy. He said 90 per cent of passenger traffic and 70 per cent of goods traffic used roads, and there is a need for an integrated approach where waterways, railways and airports are interlinked, and logistics parks would play a critical role. If the state governments provide land, the Ministry of Road Transport will facilitate in construction of logistics parks. He added that the construction cost has to reduce while the quality of construction has to improve substantially.
An integrated approach is essential to reduce logistics costs from 16 per cent to 10 per cent (China is at 10 per cent, Europe at 12 per cent). Giving the example of how bus-ports can be centres of growth, the Minister said it is imperative to link different modes of transportation while improving road infrastructure through the infusion of new technologies and modern equipment and materials. Citing how 750 km in his constituency is free of potholes, he said bitumen and cement topping are ways to ensure its longevity. The Mumbai Municipal Corporation is working on fully cemented roads with an investment of about Rs. 6,000 crores. The initial cost may be high, but it will be maintenance-free for 25 years. He cited how the cost of the 14.2 km Zoji La Tunnel has been reduced by nearly Rs. 5,000 crores through pre-cast materials and modern tunnelling equipment.
Talking about a sustainable approach, Shri Gadkari said the Ministry, along with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, has come up with a ‘Tree Bank’ project wherein the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will be planting trees along the highways, thus expanding the green coverage. The Ministry has bought over 80 lakh trees, and this should help the environment with the trees absorbing carbon dioxide. As a result, India’s ranking in green coverage has already gone up.
Calling for collaboration between States and the Centre, the Minister said only six states had signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the Rs. 16,000 crore remotely operated vehicles project. The States need to take ownership as it will ultimately benefit them.
The Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, General (Dr.) V.K.Singh referring to the considerable progress made in the road transport sector, said ‘it’s not the end’. National Highways had increased from 91,000 km in 2008 to 1,41,000 km, and the pace of construction had improved from 12 km a day to 37 km now, thanks to enhanced design capabilities, use of modern equipment etc. State Governments have a huge stake in the development of the transport sector, and with their cooperation, India can surpass developed countries.
The Karnataka Minister for Public Works Development, Shri. C.C.Patil mentioned the steps the State government took in developing state highways and also listed out the works undertaken by NHAI.
The Secretary (RT &H), Shri. Giridhar Aramane said the Ministry had resolved to reach the best in road infrastructure across the country by 2047 when India celebrates its centenary year. It would be based on the government’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ initiative, and ‘Manthan’ is part of this consultation process.
In her welcome address, Smt Alka Upadhyaya, Chairperson of NHAI, said, ‘Manthan’s objective is to generate new ideas and speed up the development of infrastructure works across the country. ‘Manthan’ is a platform that will deliberate and visualise the future of road transport. In addition, it will initiate collaboration between the government and the industry.
On occasion, Shri Nitin Gadkari announced the winners of 10 applicants of Hackathon, each of whom would get Rs. 10 lakhs each and support for the development of apps that would transform the road transport sector.