Infrastructure investment for a new era of connectivity
India is evolving into a leading player in the global economic order. Presently it is the fifth largest economy and is on way its way to become the third largest in about a decade. Besides improving the efficiency and productivity of the manufacturing sector, infrastructure creation plays a significant role in poverty alleviation through rural and urban development. Investment in creating high quality infrastructure is crucial to realise these goals. The government has given strong impetus to infrastructure creation whether it is traditional physical infrastructure or the new age digital infrastructure.
Infrastructure development has a multiplier effect and to amplify these effects the government has increased its investment in this sector aggressively. The National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) for FY 2019-25 is a first-of-its-kind, whole-of-government exercise to provide world-class infrastructure to citizens, improving their quality of life. In Budget 2023-2024 the government has planned to significantly increase their capital expenditure by 33% (10 lac crore) which makes up to 3.3 % of GDP. Key components of this expanded infrastructure budget include a considerable rise in capital outlays for railroads - ₹2.40 lac crore (highest to date), more emphasis on logistics, helping reduce firms' overall costs and lower the high cost of domestic transportation. With the start of the “Amrit kaal” the government is also working on the development of logistics which includes 100 critical transport infrastructure projects for last and first mile connectivity of ports, coal, steel, fertilizer and food grains sector.
To improve the road network and connectivity of the nation, the government has planned to spend ₹2.7 lac crore on roads out of which ₹1.62 lac crore is allotted to NHAI which is 21 % higher than the previous year. In the year 2021-2022, NHAI successfully constructed 10,457 km of highways and awarded contracts of 12,731 km which has improved the connectivity multifold. Completion of projects like Banihal-Qazigund tunnel, a twin-tube tunnel has reduced the travel time by 1.5 hours and created an all-weather road for that area. Apart from this, work on Delhi-Amritsar-Katra expressway has been started. With the help of this green field project, multiple economic corridors will be formed and investments in areas like Hiranagar, Gurha Baildran area will be supported. This construction will also connect Jammu with Jammu airport, providing better connectivity and mobility for our defence forces and common people. Sometimes building a road between two locations is either challenging or uneconomical, thus other approaches are being developed to facilitate quick movements. Ropeway projects are one of these projects and many developments have been made in this area such as development of 11.5 km ropeway connecting Gaurikund with Kedarnath has been started which will reduce the travel time and supporting tourism in that region. It is expected to facilitate around 2000 pilgrims per hour.
Railways is the most commonly used transport system and has played a vital role in nation building. One of the key examples are the 52 km Bairabi- Sairang railway project which will connect the Northeast states of the country with the central railways and the “Capital connectivity project” which will connect all the 8 capitals of north east states in one railway line by the year 2026. This will bring new opportunities for the people of the north east and facilitate easy and cheap transportation. Another important sector is aviation. India is the third largest country in the aviation sector after the US and China. In this year’s budget gave further impetus to the sector when finance minister announced the building of 50 new airports, heliports, water aerodromes and advanced landing grounds that will help in improving aerial regional connectivity.
Development of infrastructure is important but at the same time sustainable development should be an integral part. States and cities are encouraged to undertake planning reforms and actions to transform into sustainable cities of tomorrow. This would include efficient use of land resources and adequate resources for urban infrastructure, transit-oriented development and affordability of urban land. The government has also extended a helping hand to the states, by adding another year to the programme that offers 50 years of interest-free financing for infrastructure development within the state. They have also established a new infrastructure finance secretariat which will assist all stakeholders to bring in private investment to boost infrastructure and development.
Just like RIDF, the government announced the setting up of an urban infrastructure development fund, which will be established through use of priority sector lending shortfall. This will be managed by the National Housing Bank which will be used by government agencies to build infrastructure in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Steps are also being taken enable all cities and towns with 100% mechanical desludging of septic tanks and sewers to help in transition from manhole to machine hole mode.
There have been multiple projects that have been taken by the government to improve connectivity. This will definitely bear the fruits in long term and that day is not very far when the distance between Jammu and Kanyakumari or Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh will just be a matter of hours.
The blog has been Co-Authored by Navneet Sharma.