The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday approved an ambitious road construction and expansion programme of over 83,000 km over the next five years with an investment of about Rs 7 lakh crore.
The aim is to improve infrastructure, entail faster transportation and generate employment.
Briefing reporters after a cabinet meeting, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa said the road building projects will generate 14.2 crore man-days of jobs.
The massive road building programme includes 34,800 km of BharatMala project to be constructed with an investment of Rs 5,35,000 crore.
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"The historic road building programme for progress and prosperity involves building 83,677 km of roads at an investment of Rs 6.92 lakh crore," Lavasa said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who also addressed the media, later tweeted that the huge public investment in road construction will generate employment.
There is a need to increase public investment and Rs 7 lakh crore for road expansion will generate employment opportunities, Jaitley tweeted.
The government has consistently battled accusations from the Congress and other opposition parties that the growth under the Modi government has been "jobless".
Lavasa, who made a detailed presentation, said BharatMala includes economic corridors, border roads, coastal roads and greenfield expressways.
He said there will be 9,000 km of economic corridors, inter-corridor and feeder routes (6,000 km), national corridors efficiency improvement (5,000 km), border roads and international connectivity (2,000 km), coastal roads and port connectivity (2,000 km), Greenfield expressways (800 km) and balance national highway development works (10,000 km).
The BharatMala project will be funded by obtaining Rs 2.09 lakh crore from the market, private investment of Rs 1.06 lakh crore and Rs 2.19 lakh crore from central road fund, toll-operate-transfer model and from toll.
The remaining 48,877 km roads under other schemes with an outlay of Rs 1.57 lakh crore will also be undertaken in parallel by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways with 0.97 lakh crore from the central road fund and 0.59 lakh crore from budgetary support.
Lavasa said monetisation of 82 operating highways with an investment potential of Rs 34,000 crore has been taken up.
The bid for the first bundle of nine highway stretches of 680.64 km has been made with a monetisation value of Rs 6,258 crore, he added.
The road projects are aimed not only at improving connectivity but faster movement of trucks on highways for speedier transportation of goods and bringing down logistical costs.
Lavasa said India's trade with its eastern neighbours will improve due to improvement in road infrastructure till border points.
He said India's mercantile trade with Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal was $12 billion and linking Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal motor vehicles agreement and India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will make India's northeast region "a hub of East Asia trade".
Lavasa said border connectivity will improve with development of 3,300 km of roads along the eastern and western borders.
The first phase of the programme will involve construction of 1,000 km of roads.
He said 2,100 km of coastal roads will be built to boost tourism and industrial development and 2,000 km for port connectivity.
"Connectivity to ports and road development will be in conjunction with the Sagarmala project and 2,000 km will be developed in the first phase."
While 5,013 km of national highways were constructed in 2011-12 and expenditure incurred on road construction was Rs 35,186 crore, it had gone up to 8,231 km of national highways and Rs 82,091 crore of expenditure in 2016-17.
Referring to the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Lavasa said Rs 88,185 crore will be spent by the central and state governments over the next three years.
He said 1,09,302 km of rural roads will be laid to cover 34,434 habitations. In addition, 5,411 km of roads will be upgraded and new roads will be completed in three years in the districts affected by Left Wing Extremism.
(With PTI inputs)