Rs 7-L cr infra boost to revive economy

Cabinet approves Rs 7 lakh crore mega highway plan; 83000 km roads to be added by 2022

Road Ministry's Bharatmala Phase 1 proposal gets Centre's all-clear: Sources

In arguably the country's biggest ever highway development plan, the Union Cabinet is learnt to have approved a proposal to develop and expand approximately 83,000 km of roads at an investment of Rs 6.9 lakh crore in the next five years.

The Centre on Tuesday announced a ₹5.35 lakh crore road construction package, called BharatMala Pariyojana, in a bid to spur the economy as private investment remains moribund. The purposes of this project will include connecting economic corridors, boosting border and global connectivity, as well as connecting coastal roads and inter-linking ports. It is the country's second-largest highways project after the National Highway Development Project that saw development of about 50,000 km of roads and highways. The proposal is aimed at improving the speed of traffic flow on key corridors and to make them shorter for faster movement of cargo vehicles and lower logistics cost.

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A formal announcement in this regard is expected when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addresses the media in a post-Cabinet media briefing later in the day.

The government is looking to raise nearly half the money from the market and private investments while the rest would come from its roads funds and highway toll.

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The Centre simultaneously also announced today that it would be recapitalising public sector banks with a fund infusion of Rs 2 lakh 11 thousand crore. According to the plans, most of the projects under Bharatmala will be implemented using the Engineering-Procurement-Construction model and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) will be given full autonomy irrespective of project cost. This will be financed with Rs 0.97-lakh crore from CRF and Rs 0.59-lakh crore as Gross Budgetary support. However, the rest of the cost will be recovered by fuel cess, private investment and auctioning of completed highways etc.

In August, official data showed fiscal deficit at July-end touched 92.4% of the budget mainly because of front-loading of state expenditure. This is the biggest government announcement regarding Indian national Highway before the assembly elections. It will include 44 economic corridors that will connect border areas and improve port and coastal connectivity.

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Meanwhile, to boost tourism and industrial development, 2,100 km of coastal roads have been planned.

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