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Despite lockdown, national highway construction hits all-time high of 36.4 km/day in 2020-21

Highways ministry built 13,298 km in 2020-21, up from 10,237 km in 2019-20. However, road construction has not crossed Gadkari's 2017 target of 40 km/day.

Representational image of a highway | Photo: Flickr
Representational image of a highway | Photo: Flickr

New Delhi: With 36.4 km of roads built per day, national highway construction in India has hit an all-time high in the 2020-21 fiscal, a year that saw widespread disruption because of the Covid pandemic and the consequent lockdown.

The infrastructure boost has been fuelled by the growing realisation that India’s post-pandemic economic recovery will be led by spending on this sector.

Although the figure of 36.4 km per day is the highest ever, beating the 2019 mark of 29.6 km, it’s still less than the 40 km per day target set by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari in 2017, which has not been achieved so far.

Overall, Gadkari’s ministry awarded 10,467 km of highway projects in 2020-21 as against 8,948 km in the 2019-20 fiscal, while construction length increased to 13,298 km from 10,237 km in 2019-20.

For 2021-22, the ministry has set its construction target at 14,600 km of national highways.

“It’s a world record. Nowhere in the world has such quantum of work happened. I am now confident that we will be able to construct over 40 km road per day in 2021-22,” Gadkari said at an event Thursday.

He added that the ministry also completed the Delhi-Meerut expressway and opened it to traffic. The expressway will reduce the travel time between Delhi and Meerut from 2.5 hours to 45 minutes.

Also read: NHAI is a gold mine, it will never face debt trap, says Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari

Modi govt’s push for highway construction 

Since the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014, the average per-day figure for road construction is 25 km, almost three times what was managed under the previous UPA government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh, which could only build 9 km of roads per day between 2012 and 2014.

The Modi government, like the previous NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has given top priority to the highways sector, which had hit a rough patch since 2007.

Between 2014-15 and 2021-22, the overall expenditure on construction of national highways has increased to Rs 1,83,101 crore from Rs 38,867 crore. In the same period, the total length of national highways has increased to 1,37,625 km (as on 20 March 2021) from 91,287 km in April 2014 — a 50 per cent jump.

“Last year, Covid was a big challenge. We were preparing for our plans for the next fiscal when the lockdown happened. No work happened on the ground for almost two months. Despite this, we managed to achieve 36.4 km,” Road Secretary Giridhar Aramane added at the event.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Modi govt built 1.5 km of highway per day in Northeast, up from 0.6 km per day by UPA