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Modi govt continues infra push, Budget shows big jumps for highways, transport & tap water

Finance Minister says Gati Shakti Master Plan for expressways will be formulated to facilitate faster movement of people & goods. It will build 25,000 km of expressways in 2022-23.

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New Delhi: As expected, the Narendra Modi government’s infrastructure thrust has continued in Budget 2022-23, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha Tuesday.

There is a sharp increase in the allocations for highways, rural roads, housing, transport, cargo terminals and potable tap water connections, including the Gati Shakti Master Plan for multimodal connectivity (which will build 25,000 km of expressways) and five river-linking projects.  

Sitharaman said the PM Gati Shakti Master Plan for expressways will be formulated in 2022-23 to facilitate faster movement of people and goods.

“The Gati Shakti Master Plan encompasses seven engines — roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistic infrastructure for economic transformation, seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics synergy,” Sitharaman said in her Budget speech. 

The capital expenditure for key infrastructure sectors, especially highways, has got a big boost in Budget 2022-23. The total allocation for the highways sector has increased to Rs 1.99 lakh crore from Rs 1.18 lakh crore in FY 2021-22. Besides, Sitharaman said Rs 20,000 crore will be mobilised to complement public resources. 

However, expanding expressways by 25,000 km in 2022-23 will be easier said than done. In the current fiscal, the ministry set a target of building 12,000 km of highways, but work has taken a hit because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Highways ministry officials are, however, confident of achieving the target. “There is a huge appetite for growth in the sector,” a senior official said.   

Overall, the allocation for the transport sector has gone up to Rs 3.5 lakh crore in 2022-23 from Rs 2.3 lakh crore in 2021-22.

Parvesh Minocha, chairman, Feedback Group, an infra consultancy firm, told ThePrint that  “it’s a good Budget for the infra sector because it’s a continuation and enhancement of infrastructure building by public funding”.

Minocha, however, added that too much government funding is a matter of worry. “While the Budget does mention public private participation, the primary funding for all the infrastructure development will come from government funding, which is a matter of worry. There is a fear of inflation,” he said.

“The government’s strategy to boost infra spending is understandable. It will have a ripple effect on steel, cement and the labour market. The construction industry will get a boost, it will create jobs,” Minocha added.

Also read: Highways budget could jump 30% to Rs 1.8 lakh crore as Modi govt set to continue infra push

Big ticket projects already underway

The increase in capital expenditure for the highways sector has been necessitated by a slew of big ticket projects, including Bharatmala and the greenfield Delhi-Mumbai and Bengaluru-Chennai expressway projects that are already underway and require a steady flow of funds.  

‘Parvatmala’, a national ropeways development programme, will also be taken up in a public-private partnership model to improve connectivity and provide an ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional roads in hilly areas and difficult terrain. Sitharaman said that eight ropeway projects, of 60 km length in total, will be awarded in FY 2022-23.   

The PM Gram Sadak Yojana, the rural road connectivity programme, also saw an enhancement in allocation — to Rs 19,000 crore in 2022-23 from Rs 14,000 crore the previous year. 

400 Vande Bharat trains, 100 cargo terminals 

Sitharaman also announced 400 new-generation Vande Bharat trains with better energy efficiency and passenger riding experience during the next three years.

With an eye to promote indigenisation, the finance minister also said that 2,000 km of rail network will be brought under ‘Kavach’ for safety and capacity augmentation. Kavach is an indigenously built anti-collision device to prevent accidents.    

The finance minister added that 100 Gati Shakti cargo terminals for multimodal logistics facilities will be developed during the next three years. 

Har Ghar Jal  & PM Awas Yojana see jump in allocation   

The Modi government’s flagship ‘Har Ghar Jal’ scheme, to provide functional tap water connection to every rural household by 2024, also saw an increase in allocation — to Rs 60,000 crore in 2022-23 from Rs 50,000 crore last year. The government plans to cover 3.8 crore rural households in 2022-23.  

Vini Mahajan, secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, had told ThePrint in an interview last week that the Centre has given a clear indication that there will be no dearth of funds for the flagship scheme. 

Sitharaman said while the government has already taken up the Ken-Betwa river link project, for the benefit 9,00,000 farmers at a cost of Rs 44,605 crore, detailed project reports for five more river-linking projects have been finalised — Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi-Narmada, Godavari-Krishna, Krishna-Pennar and Pennar-Cauvery.

“Once a consensus is reached among the beneficiary states, the Centre will provide support for implementation,” Sitharaman said.

PM Awas Yojana, another flagship programme of the Modi government, piloted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to provide pucca houses to every urban household, was also allotted Rs 48,000 crore for FY 2022-23. The overall allocation of the ministry also saw an increase to Rs 76,549 crore in 2022-23 from Rs 54,581 crore in 2021-22. 

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: No changes in tax slabs, deductions — FM Sitharaman gives middle class a skip in Budget 2022




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