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Millennium Post

Highways to hell

It is of interest that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has suggested that the construction of highways be speeded up. The prime minister’s suggestion comes in the context of a statement by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways that there are problems of land acquisition and law and order in Congress ruled states. It appears that the of the construction of 20 kms of national highways that have ben set by the central government have just not been met. It thus appears that the Congress-ruled state governments do not seem to be cooperating with the central government which is at present in the hands of the Congress party itself. Some of the problems in these states are self-created. Had some members of the Congress, in party or in the central goverment not interfered with land acquisition there would have been less problems in the construction of national highways in these states.  The prime minister’s statement also comes in the wake of the road transport ministry’s finding that the national highway construction activity in the non-Congress ruled states, such as those where the NDA and the BJP are in power has been of a higher standard. Surely this is a litmus test of the performance of the Congress party which is in governance at the centre and in some of the states, and which controls the crucial road transport ministry and which is responsible for the construction of national highways.

The superior performance of the non-Congress governments has come inspite of the central government and not because of it. This is unfotunate as, in the absence of good national highways, all development activity has come to a halt, for which the people of the country are paying a price.

The prime minister’s statement is also a case of one part of the government not knowing what the other is doing. Surely the prime minister, when making his statement about national highway construction, was not unaware of the fact that several thousands of crores have been poured into the construction of highways over the past several years by his own government. The central government had also planned the construction of new national highways across India which it has announced many times with much fanfare. Yet, despite all the repeated buzz created by the central government about national highways, very few of these plans have materialised. The state of national highways in India remains abysmal and even many of the old national highways that did not need much repair are now beginning to fall into desuetude.
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