India to double road building in sensitive northern states

The government of India is preparing a Rs250bn ($3.8bn) plan to construct 2,000km of highways in 12 politically important hill states in the north of the country. Officials said most of these would be Arunachal Pradesh (formerly the Northwest Frontier), followed by the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, and Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh and Manipur.

The building of roads in these states, which border China, Nepal and Pakistan were prioritised because they were "of high strategic importance to India", a senior transport ministry official told India’s Economic Times.

Last year, only about 1,000km of road schemes were begun in hill states, about 10% of the national total. The Economic Times reported that the rapid increase followed a request from the office of Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India.

For the current year, the target is to construct nearly 10,000km of highways in the country as a whole

Most of these projects will be awarded as publicly funded engineering, procurement and construction contracts, although a few important projects that connected religious places in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir would be procured using the new "hybrid annuity" model adopted in January, whereby the government pays 40% of the cost before work starts.

The ministry plans to award projects for 300km of highways in Arunachal Pradesh, 256km in Mizoram, 250km in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh and 100km in Manipur; the remainder would be in Uttarakhand, Assam, Sikkim, Nagaland and West Bengal.

For the current year, the target is to construct nearly 10,000km of highways in the country as a whole.

In the budget for the current fiscal year, the road transport and highways ministry got an allocation of Rs570bn ($8.6bn) and the National Highways Development Authority has been allowed to raise tax-free bonds worth Rs150bn ($2.3bn).

The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport said earlier this week that the entire population would benefit from better road access and a more reliable and affordable transport system in the next five years.

Image: Better roads will improve the Indian state’s access to its frontier (Government of Himachal Pradesh)

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