The Rs 10 lakh-crore Bharatmala highway project will link major religious and tourist destinations, as well as roads in remote areas.
New Delhi: The NDA government’s ambitious Rs 10 lakh-crore highway project “Bharatmala” which aims to develop roads linking major religious and tourist destinations, as well as roads in remote areas, has been expedited by the Prime Minister’s Office, and highly-placed sources said it may be sent for Cabinet approval within this month.
Sources privy to developments told this newspaper that though the project — that will develop a total of 50,000 km of highways — had been announced by the Centre in August 2015, the PMO was keen to expedite it and thus in May this year it was sent for the approval of the Public Investment Board. The board is chaired by the finance ministry expenditure secretary and includes the secretary of the environment ministry and Niti Aayog representatives, among others.
Once the PIB’s approval was received, a Cabinet note was circulated among stakeholders, which has now been finalised and will be sent for the Union Cabinet’s go-ahead any time now, sources added. There is a chance that the project, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is quite keen to implement, may get Cabinet approval by the end of this month.
The Bharatmala project entails developing the highway network from the country’s western to eastern region — from Gujarat to Mizoram. In the first phase, around 25,000 km of highways will be built at an approximate cost of Rs 6 lakh crores. It will cover 10 states under its ambit and develop highways linking significant religious as well as historical places like Hampi and Sarnath.
The Bharatmala project is an umbrella programme, and also covers all existing highway and expressway projects that were in progress under the National Highway Development Project (NHDP). All projects started by the previous UPA government have been subsumed under the Bharatmala project.
The ministry of road transport and highways claims to be awarding projects at a pace of over 8,000 km annually and the PMO, that is learnt to be quite appreciative of its functioning, has asked the ministry to fast-track the Bharatmala project.
The ministry is also running a port development project which is called the Sagarmala project. Highways minister Nitin Gadkari had earlier this year said while Bharatmala will focus on connecting North India, the Sagarmala project will link all the coastal routes.