Budget highlights infra projects bridging rural urban divide

Nirmala Sitharaman, roads, NHAI, Budget 2019, electric vehicles, transportation, railways, $5 trillion economy, The Federal, English news website
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents the Union Budget 2019-20 in the Lok Sabha at Parliament, in New Delhi. Photo/PTI.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday (July 5) announced a slew of steps to scale up India’s infrastructure including augmenting 1,25,000 km of rural roads under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana’ at a cost of ₹80,250 crore and and creating a national highways grid.

Tabling the Modi 2.0 government’s maiden budget in Parliament, Sitharaman said that steps were taken to boost infrastructure in sectors like roads, waterways, metro, and rail. She also emphasized on the measures for a self-reliant aviation industry. “We need to invest in infra, digital economy, and job creation in small and medium enterprises… Schemes such as Bharatmala, Sagarmala, and Udaan are bridging rural urban divide and improving our transport infrastructure,” Sitharaman said, presenting the full Budget for 2019-20.

In the second phase of Bharatmala project, states will be helped to develop roadways, she said. The finance minister also said that comprehensive restructuring of National Highways Programme is on the anvil to ensure creation of a national highways grid of desirable capacity.

“Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Phase 3 envisages to upgrade 1.25 lakh km of road length at an estimated cost of ₹80,250 crore,” she said. About movement of cargo through waterways, she said that cargo movement on Ganga will increase four times in the coming four years.

On electric vehicles, she said that the government has already approved ₹10,000 crore for FAME II scheme on April 1, 2019 to encourage faster adoption of electric vehicles by providing right incentives and charging infrastructure. Announcing various infrastructure projects, the minister said, “I wish to propose a number of initiatives as part of kick-starting the virtuous cycle of domestic and foreign investment.”

She also talked about the development of inland waterways and using public-private partnerships for railway development. She said, “I propose to make a blueprint available for developing gas grids, water grids, and regional airports.”

About railway infrastructure, she said that it will need ₹50 lakh crore till 2030. She proposed that a public private partnership (PPP) be used to unleash faster development and delivery of passenger freight services for railway projects to boost the connectivity. “Railways will be encouraged to invest in suburban railways through special purpose vehicles (SPVs) and enhance metro rail network through PPPs,” she said.

The government envisions using rivers for cargo transportation, which will also decongest roads and railways, Sitharaman said. Railway stations modernization will be launched this year, she added.

The finance minister said that, as the world’s third largest aviation market, time is ripe to enter aircraft financing and leasing from Indian shores. She further noted that last mile delivery stood out and asserted that the government’s objective has been and continues to be “Mazboot desh ke liye mazboot nagarik”. “The target of $5 trillion economy in the next few years is imminently achievable,” she noted.

“We have shown by our deeds that principles of perform, reform, transform can indeed succeed,” she said, adding that the NDA government in its first term had set the ball rolling for a New India with strident commitment to fiscal consolidation.