By A Special Correspondent
The National Highways falls within the domain of the Centre. The government of India meets the entire expenditure on its development and maintenance. In addition, financial assistance is also provided in the form of grants-in-aids and loans for the development of certain selected states, roads and bridges. Some funds are also provided to state governments and the Border Road Development Board for strategic roads and for certain roads in far-flung and inaccessible areas.
To enable better monitoring and faster implementation a full-fledged Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was carved out of the erstwhile Union Ministry of Surface Transport, in November 2000. This ministry has two wings, namely Road Transport and Highways. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and National Institute of Training of Highway Engineers are the two autonomous bodies under the administrative control of the ministry.
The total cost of prioritisation of development needs for the NH sector has been estimated at Rs 165,000 crore at 2000 price levels. Looking at the magnitude of the work involved, the Central government has over the last few years laid special emphasis on the development of National Highways. The total expenditure on roads, which averaged Rs 1,550 crore in 1997-98 and 1998-99, quadrupled to Rs 6,000 crore (Plan and non-Plan). In the subsequent year, the Plan and non-Plan expenditure was Rs 10,744 crore. During the current year (2001-02), the budgetary support has been pegged around the same level.
In fact, the government's spending during the five years is likely to exceed the estimates projected by the Working Group for the Ninth Five-Year Plan. The physical plan target and the cost estimates worked out by the Working Group in the Plan period is as under: