ROADS

CLASSIFICATIONS OF ROADS

 

  • The Indian Road Congress classifies Indian Roads into 5 categories:
    • National Highways
    • State Highways
    • Major District Roads
    • Other District Roads
    • Village Roads
  • Indian Road Congress is a semi-official body setup by government in 1934 on the recommendations of the Jaykar Committee. It is the apex body in the country for road engineers and regularly updates the requirements such as width, sight distance etc.
  • Until 2010, National Highways were numbered according to the National Highways Act of 1956.
  • Post 2010, east-west highways have odd numbers while north-south highways have even numbers.
  • Only the central government has the authority to classify any stretch of road as National Highway.
  • The National Highways Authority of India, created as per the National Highways Authority Act, 1988 is responsible for the upkeep of National Highways.
  • The PWD departments of respective states are responsible to look after state highways.

 

IMPORTANCE OF ROAD TRANSPORT

  • Road Transport is vital for the economy of the country and enables the country’s transportation sector to contribute around 4.7% towards India’s GDP. It carries around 65% of freight and 85% of passenger traffic in India.
  • Roads connect the interior villages, countryside, and hilly areas with the cities that are not connected with railway transport.
  • Road Transport provides last mile connectivity and acts as complementary to railway transport acting as arteries for goods and passengers arriving at railway stations.
  • It provides door to door connectivity for freight and passengers, which is not possible through other means of transport such as railways or airways etc.
  • Road transportation is important for national security and the border roads and defence roads are very crucial from the strategic perspective.

 

CONSTRUCTION OF ROADS

  • The Indian roads are primarily bitumen based macadamized roads but concrete based roads are also getting popular. In some areas such as Kanpur, British built concrete roads are still in use.
  • Before 1998, the concrete based roads were less popular due to the low availability of cement. With the increase in supplies of cement in India, the concrete based roads are getting popular. These are durable, weatherproof and low maintenance roads compared to bitumen based macadamized roads.
  • The development of new concrete pavement technology has led to the development of cool pavement, quiet payment, and permeable pavement making it more attractive and environmentally friendly.
  • The road building rate has increased in India from about 12 km per day in 2014-15 to 27 km per day in 2017-18 with a target to build 40 kilometres per day as per the announcements in budget 2018.
  • The government has started Bharatmala project with the target of constructing 83,677 km of highways at an estimated cost of rupees 5.35 trillion.
  • The government of India has set a target for completing 300 Highway projects by 2019. The total estimated investments are expected to be around Rs 1.5 trillion in the financial year 2019.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has set a target of awarding 15,000 km of road projects and constructing 10,000 km of national highways in 2019.

 

GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES

  • The Government of India plans to introduce a new framework on renegotiation of Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts, which will allow renegotiations based on sectorspecific issues, especially for national highways and ports, and provide greater flexibility to the parties involved.
  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) seeks to improve execution of highway projects by delegating powers to its Regional Officers (RO) for hiring of equipment and laborers to demolish structures falling within the project, which will enable NHAI to make encumbrance free land available more speedily to the concessionaire/contractors.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways plans to set up Land Acquisition (LA) cells across the country, which will work towards resolving issues related to land acquisition and ensure speedy compensation disbursal by the state governments.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways plans to build five more green-field expressways across the country, which are expected to reduce travel time and propel economic growth.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a hybrid annuity model for implementing highway projects, which adopts a more rational approach to allocation of risks between the government and the private developer, and is hence expected to revive highway projects construction in India.
  • With the objective of reviving private investment in the roads sector, the Ministry of Roads and Highways is now working on two more models for attracting capital. One model proposes allowing bidding of a road project on the basis of the least present value, and the other envisages selling off road projects that have been built using government funds.
  • NHAI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) under Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and North East Centre for Technology Application and Research (NECTAR) to use spatial technology such as satellite data to monitor and manage National Highways.
  • The Union Budget 2017-18 accorded thrust to multi-modal transport planning and synergizing investments in railways, roads, waterways and civil aviation.
  • Tax exemption is given on Masala Bonds to help mobilize more investments.
  • The Government has constituted the National Road Safety Council as the apex body to take policy decisions in matters of road safety.
  • Under the World Bank Technical Assistance program, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways got a study conducted on Logistics Efficiency Enhancement. The Study Report has made several recommendations including, inter-alia, development of Economic Corridors, feeder routes and removal of choke points, along with development of Logistics Parks on National Highways. The recommendations have been accepted and the work of developing Logistics Parks at identified locations in partnership with State Governments and other stakeholders in a phased manner, has been entrusted to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
  • The Government has launched Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) for carrying out inventory and condition assessment of all the existing bridges on National Highways.
  • Construction of India’s longest highways tunnel – the Chenani- Nashri tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.

 

ISSUES FACED BY INDIAN ROAD NETWORK

  • Indian roads face huge pressure due to the increased requirements of the Indian economy due to which there is a great need of modernization of roads.
  • The road maintenance in India is underfunded and still thousands of villages in India lack access to all-weather roads.
  • The Intra-city vehicle speed in India is one of the lowest in the world. This is due to high traffic which is expected to increase even further in future.
  • In India, the average road speed is about 30-40 km per hour whereas, the average road speed worldwide is between 60 to 80 km per hour.
  • According to the World Health Organisation’s Road network safety data, among the major economies, India has the largest number of road fatalities in the world.
  • The low density of roads per thousand population has caused congestion and slow speeds in cities. This increases fuel consumption leading to increased pollution. Lower speeds also lead to lower efficiency of the engine.
  • According to the KPMG report, India’s road network logistics and the bottlenecks in transportation negatively impacts the GDP growth rate by one to two percent.
  • The constraints with the Indian road network are not the same for each state with states like Gujarat, Tamilnadu has a better road network than other states.
  • According to the ‘Road Accidents in India Report’ of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for 2017, green commuters — cyclists/ pedestrians now face greater danger of accidents and the fatalities for these categories of users have seen an increase of 37% and 29% over 2016.

 

SCHEMES OF GOVERNMENT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF ROAD NETWORK IN INDIA

A) NHDP

  • NHDP is being implemented under following 7 phases:
  • 4-laning of Golden Quadrilateral and North-South and East-West Corridors (NHDP I & II)
  • Upgradation of 12,109 km (NHDP-III)
  • 2-laning of 20,000 km with paved shoulders (NHDP-IV)
  • 6-laning of 6,500 km (NHDP V)
  • Development of 1000 km of expressways (NHDP-VI)
  • Other Highway projects of 700 km (NHDP-VII), includes ring roads, service roads etc.
  • The progress under NHDP has been somewhat slower than anticipated. Some of the major hurdles in its implementation are:

Timeliness in awarding contracts

  • Difficulties in acquiring land
  • Securing environmental clearances
  • Shortages in construction capacity
  • In a 2012 Report, the World Bank alleged the presence of fraudulent and corrupt practices by Indian contractors

Suggestions

  • Within the phases of NHDP, the program relating to two-laning of single lane roads needs to be accelerated to enhance energy efficiency and safety.
  • Further optimization of energy and transport is achievable with the accelerated construction of service lanes for local traffic in all existing four-lane and six-lane roads.
  • Financing of these roads should rely on user charge principle in form of tolls and continuing with the existing Central Road Fund through additional levies on petrol and diesel

B) Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna(PMGSY)

  • PMGSY was launched on 25th December 2000 with the objective of providing all-weather roads to the eligible unconnected rural habitations.

Criteria of eligibility:

  • All habitations having a population of 500 (as per 2001 census) and above in plain areas.
  • All habitations having a population of 250 and above in:
  • Hill States
  • Desert Areas
  • Tribal Areas (Schedule V)
  • Tribal and backward districts under IAP (Integrated Action Plan)
  • The Government of India in 2013, approved a scheme of PMGSY II which envisages upgradation of existing major rural links to rural growth centres where cost of upgradation will be shared by states also.
  • The Phase-III of PMGSY is also being finalised, wherein Sustainable Maintenance of Roads and Financial Incentives to best performing States will be the key focus areas.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development is planning to give a financial incentive of 5 percent to the best performing States for maintenance of roads. There are 8 to 9 States in the country which are building standard and durable rural roads well before the scheduled target.
  • Sensing the importance and urgency of rural roads for national development the target date for completion of PMGSY-I has been preponed from 2022 to 2019. Working towards this accelerated target, sanctions have been given to 1,66,012 habitations (93%) against the target of 1,78,184 eligible habitations. PMGSY through its all-weather roads has contributed this key ingredient of development to 11,499 new unconnected habitations for the first time in 2017-18.
  • Less than 1% eligible habitations remain to be sanctioned for new connectivity under PMGSY, remaining 6% habitations are either not-feasible or sanctioned by the States from their own resources. Connectivity has been provided to 1,52,124 habitations (including 16,380 habitations connected by the States). In addition, 2109 habitations of 100-249 population have been connected. Under the program, 5,50,533 kms of road length has been constructed.

Suggestions for Improvement

 The current mandate of PMGSY needs to be expanded to achieve universal connectivity as these roads serve as entry point for poverty alleviation and provision of access to socialinfrastructure such as education and health.

  • Some rural roads could witness traffic volumes that may justify widening to intermediate or two-lane.
  • Fiscal federalism theory would suggest that since rural roads serve as the primary redistributive tool for the government, they should continue to be funded by grants from the center.
  • For the financing of these roads, the current CRF (Central Road Fund) accruals and RIDF (Rural Infrastructure Development Fund) of NABARD may need to be augmented.
  • The strategy of some states to raise funds through market committee fees on agricultural produce can be emulated by other states as well. Some funds for earth work can be leveraged from MGNREGA.

C) Bharatmala pariyojana

  • The Bharatmala pariyojana is a centrally sponsored highway project of Indian government for constructing 83,677 km of new highways at an estimated cost of Rs 5.35 lakh crore.
  • The project will provide connectivity to the far-flung border and rural areas including the tribal and backward areas. The project will connect 550 district headquarters to minimum four-lane highways by raising the number of corridors to 50, and moving 80% freight traffic to national highways.
  • The scheme will subsume all existing highway projects including the national highway development project launched in 1998.

 

 

D) Setu Bharatam scheme

  • Setu Bharatam is a scheme of government of India launched on March 4, 2016, for making all national highways free of railway crossings by 2019.
  • Under this project, around 208 rail over and under bridges is to be constructed at the unmanned railway crossings on national highways. Under the project, around 1500 depreciated British Era bridges will be widened, rehabilitated or replaced in a phased manner.
  • The scheme is being implemented to prevent frequent accidents and loss of lives at these railway crossings.

D) Green Highways policy

  • The ministry of road transport and Highways has promulgated green highways (plantation, transplantation, beautification and maintenance) policy 2015, for developing the green corridors along the national highways for inclusive growth and sustainable environment.
  • This policy envisions”development of eco-friendly National Highways with the participation of the communities, farmers, NGOs, the private sector, institutions, government agencies and the forest departments for economic growth and development in a sustainable manner.”
  • The Green Highways Division under the NHAI has been entrusted to plan, implement and monitor the roadside plantation along the national highways which is expected to provide 1 lakh direct employment opportunities in the plantation sector in the next 10 years.

 

 

E) Char Dham highways

  • Char Dham Expressway National Highway is proposed two-lane Express National Highway with a minimum width of 10 meters to be implemented in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • The scheme will connect the four holy places in Uttarakhand that includes Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
  • The scheme complements the Char Dham Railway project of the government by constructing 900 km of national highways in Uttarakhand.
  • This scheme will include several long bridges and tunnels for eliminating accidents and landslides. The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 12,000 crores.

 

E- INITIATIVES

E-tolling:

  • In order to remove traffic bottle neck at toll plazas and ensure seamless movement of vehicles and hassle-free collection of toll, the Government has implemented a nationwide Electronic Toll Collection based on passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) conforming to EPC Gen-2, ISO 18000-6C standards.
  • It provides for electronic collection of toll through FASTags. E- Tolling was facilitated in a big way after demonetization. After the initial suspension of toll collection in November 2016, when tolling was resumed from 3rd December, elaborate arrangements were made for payment of fees through swipe machines and E wallets and FASTags at all toll plazas on the National Highways. Collection of fee through electronic means was just about 5 percent in Oct-Nov 2016. This rose to about 11 percent by mid-December.

PMIS:

  • An online state-of-the-art real time Project Monitoring and Information System (PMIS) has been developed to digitally monitor 2000+ projects executed by multiple agencies. The PMIS has detailed dashboards for every project and generates custom reports required for project reviews.
  • Customized dashboards have been developed for the Minister of Road Transport and Highways for regular monitoring of progress.

INFRACON

  • It is the National Portal for Infrastructure Consultancy Firms and Key Personnel. This portal acts as a kind of bridge between consultancy firms working in the road engineering and construction sector and domain experts and key personnel who are deployed both for project preparation and supervision.
  • The portal hosts the credentials of consultancy firms and key personnel and has linkages to Aadhar and Digi-locker for data validation and purity. 474 consultancy firms and 2387 key personnel under various categories are already registered with the portal.

INAM-PRO

  • It has been developed as a web-based application (www.inampro.nic.in) for Infrastructure and Material Providers. It is a kind of a web based market place that brings together the material providers and the prospective buyers on a common platform.
  • The platform was launched in March, 2015 to facilitate contractors and cement buyers engaged in executing central/state funded roads and highways and bridge construction projects to place cement orders online with the registered cement companies offering cement at competitive rates in the vicinity of project execution locations.
  • Given the success of INAM-PRO with cement, other materials like steel and steel slag have also been brought on this platform so as to make this as a comprehensive e-market place for infrastructure providers.

 

THE MOTOR VEHICLES ACT 2019

A) Context:

  • It is well known that India is one of the most accident-prone countries in the world, accounting for nearly 1,50,000 deaths, 10% of all motor vehicles-related fatalities worldwide.
  • According to the 2018 report of the World Health Organization, the highest number of road accidents occurs in India worldwide. Even China, the most populous country, is behind us in this regard.
  • As per the report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, 2017; there are about 5 lakh road accidents occurred in India every year in which around 1.5 lakh people are killed.
  • There are around 1.49 lakh people died in 2018 in the road accidents with Uttar Pradesh registering the maximum spike in fatalities.
  • So in order to prevent the menace of road accidents; the central government has amended the Motor Vehicle 1988 by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019.
  • Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act  2019 has been implemented throughout the country since September 1, 2019. Now the penalty has been increased 10 times on various violations.

B) Features of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019:

  • Compensation for road accident victims: The Bill increases the minimum compensation for hit and run cases as follows: (i) in case of death, from Rs 25,000 to two lakh rupees, and (ii) in case of grievous injury, from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000.
  • Recall of vehicles: The New Bill allows the central government to order for recall of defected motor vehicles which may harm the environment, or the driver, or other road users.
  • Road Safety Board:The National Road Safety Board, will be created by the central government to advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.
  • Offence and Fines:The new Bill has increases fines for several offence under the Act.
    • Fine for Drink and Driving: Now the fine is increased from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000 along with imprisonment of 6 months. On the repetition of this act fine would be Rs. 15,000.
    • Rash driving will cost fine of Rs. 5000 earlier it was Rs.1000.
    • Driving without driving lisence will be fined Rs 5000 instead of 500 earlier.
  • Offence by Juveniles is a new category introduced. Now Guardian of the Juvenile / owner of the vehicle shall be fined Rs. 25,000 with 3 yrs imprisonment. For Juvenile to be tried under Juveniles Justice Act. Registration of Motor Vehicle shall be cancelled.
  • If a vehicle manufacturer fails to comply with motor vehicle standards, the penalty will be a fine of up to Rs 100 crore, or imprisonment of up to one year, or both.
  • If a contractor fails to comply with road design standards, the penalty will be up to Rs.1 lac.
  • Under section 196 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 2019 driving without Insurance will be fined Rs 2000.
  • Under the section 194 D of the act; riding without Helmets will be fined to Rs 1000 and disqualification for 3 months for licence.
  • Under section 194B of the Act; driving without seat belt will cost Rs. 1000.
  • Speeding / Racing will be fined Rs 5,000 instead of Rs 500 earlier.
  • Under section 194 E of the Act; not providing way for emergency vehicles will cost Rs 10,000.

C) </strong >Enouraging the role of Good Samaritans:

  • The Bill defines a Good Samaritan as a person, who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident.
  • The assistance must have been In good faith or by Voluntary or Without the expectation of any reward.
  • Such a person will not be liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury to or death of an accident victim, caused due to their negligence in providing assistance to the victim.
  • It will be optional for the Good Samaritans to disclose their identity to the Police or the medical personnel.

D) Cashless treatment: Motor Vehicle Accident Fund:

  • Additionally, the Act now requires insurance companies and the government to notify schemes relating to cashless treatment during the ‘Golden Hour’ — the period of first 60 minutes from the occurrence of an accident when the risk of fatality can be minimised to the greatest extent.
  • Further, it mandates compulsory insurance of all road users, including pedestrians, who will be covered through a ‘Motor Vehicle Accident Fund’. Lastly, it also provides for interim relief to be provided to the claimants.
  • These provisions, well-intentioned, are no doubt steps in the right direction.

E) Delays in settlement need to be addressed:

  • Another problem highlighted by the apex court for which the new Act does not provided any remedy is that of procedural delays on the part of tribunals in claims settlement.
  • The provision for interim compensation is bound to bring some respite to the victims but another unaddressed concern makes this stipulation susceptible to criticism.
  • An absence of in-built safeguards in the compensation mechanism allows for the money to be frittered away by unscrupulous relatives, touts and agents, especially in cases where the victim or his nearest kin are poor and illiterate.
  • It is to address this concern that the Supreme Court in Jai Prakash case suggested payment in the form of monthly disbursements of smaller amounts over a longer period of time to victims or their kin, as against a lump-sum award. This has been overlooked by the new Act.
  • The question still remains how effectively the provisions will be implemented by state authorities. Concerns have been raised regarding dilution of power of the states in terms of granting licences and other procedures, as the matter is in the Concurrent List.
  • Understandably, many of the points raised above cannot be specified statutorily.
  • Hence, the government needs to notify an institutional framework which encourages advocacy for victims and facilitates access to the various services.

F) Conclusion

  • As far as road safety is concerned, discipline is imperative.
  • If implemented in right spirit, the law can change road habits of all by not only imposing stiffer penalties, but also trying to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the citizens.
  • After the passing of this bill Road and transport Minister says that the Bill will provide an Efficient, Safe and Corruption Free Transport System in the Country.

 

 

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