Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has called for urgent action to facilitate the inter-state movement of trucks and lorries carrying essential goods amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. States and union territories had earlier urged the Centre to expedite land acquisition and utilise funds amounting to Rs 25,000 crore allocated for the purpose, to help regain momentum in the construction of roads.
In accordance with concerned authorities, Nitin Gadkari is now stressing on the acceleration of economic development while maintaining that transport facilities serve as the backbone of economic activity.
Nitin Gadkari has called upon all states and union territories to immediately clear blockades of trucks and lorries at state borders. Speaking at a virtual meeting of road transport ministers of all states and UTs, Gadkari urged the ministers to intervene in such matters and ensure resolution with help from local/district administrations.
Accelerating economic development
At the same time, the Union minister underlined the importance of health advisories and other precautionary guidelines such as maintaining distance and the use of masks and hand sanitizers by the truck driver and cleaners along with the employees at roadside eateries (dhabas).
Responding to a suggestion, Gadkari informed the ministers that his ministry will start a helpline to resolve all issues related to transportation.
General (Retd) VK Singh, Minister of State (MoS) for Road Transport and Highways was also a part of this meeting. The meeting was also attended by the chief ministers of Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh apart from the transport and PWD ministers and deputy CMs of various states. Senior officials of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, as well as NHAI and NHIDCL, were also present.
Construction of National Highways
Nitin Gadkari informed the attendees that top priority is being accorded to the roadways. We are planning to enhance the construction of National highways by two-three times the present pace in the next couple of years, he added. The Union minister urged the states and UTs to expedite land acquisition as delays hamper the pace of development and asked them to utilise funds amounting to Rs 2,400-2,500 crore which remain unused, for this purpose.
Ministers should personally monitor the process of decision-making in this regard to ensure that proposed projects do not become the victims of red-tape, Nitin Gadkari said.
A presentation was also made highlighting the work being carried out by the Union ministry during the lockdown period. As many as 1,315 projects covering 49,238 kilometres worth Rs 5,89,648 crore are under progress, of which 819 projects covering 30,301 kilometres costing about Rs 3,06,250 crore are delayed, the presentation asserted.
The presentation also focused on state-specific issues like pending land acquisition and environmental clearance which have led to delay in the project implementation. The participating states were asked to take definitive steps towards mitigating the difficulties.
Two-wheeler taxis in rural areas
Nitin Gadkari also urged the state transport ministers to explore the use of App-based two-wheeler taxis in the country’s rural pockets. This, he said, could assist farming communities with smoother movement and provide employment opportunities.
The move could also shift public transport to LNG/CNG, e-vehicles which will lead to considerable savings on fuel bills and will help the environment, Gadkari said.