– “Proper infrastructure is the base for rapid development of an economy. The development of infrastructure is calling for expansion, technological modernization, scientific tuning.”
Our country needs good roads, better transport facilities, better railway reliable air travel, more telecommunication linkage, better facilities at ports, better and sufficient power supply, planned urbanization, housing and particularly in respect to a rural area, the basic infrastructure of road, power supply, education, and water, etc.
India is a country of one billion people out of which 70% people live in rural areas. It is strange that even after fifty-six years of independence the shape and form of the rural sector have not changed prospectively. A lot of many problems of metro cities are the result of lack of infrastructural facilities and job opportunities in a rural area. The increasing number of slum areas in metros is the result of no unemployment for the rural mass. Despite progress made by the country in various fields like communication, manufacturing, industrial segment, space technology, information technology, and the rural sector has not made any significant progress. The planning has since been oriented towards the development of infrastructure in cities industrial areas, even then the rural segment remains far behind in growth parameters.
Things are not so pessimistic and bleak. Slowly and steadily improvements are taking place. Infrastructure facilities are being developed. The newly laid down expressway between Mumbai. and Pune that has narrowed the distance and reduced the traveling time from seven hours to just two and a half hours. We are proud of the sleek and modern international airport at Nedumbassery near Kochi. The various flyovers being constructed in Delhi will positively reduce the problem of transportation in the metro.
With strong political will and determination, everything can be achieved. Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee announced on Oct. 14, 1998, the construction of North-South, East-West corridors. The task force set up by the Vajpayee government decided on the National Highways Development Project (NHDP). The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) is approximately 6000 km National Highways, connecting New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai, if completed as per schedule, that will solve the long-felt problem of easy and fast approach between the Metros. The North-South and East-West corridors are approximately 7500 km long. Kashmir to Kanyakumari approximately 4000 km with a spur to Kochi; Silchar to Porbander- 3500 km schedule to complete by Dec 31, 2007. In April 2000, the government approved several other projects along with NHDP with a total outlay of Rs. 4000 crore, if completed in schedule timing without further cost escalation shall facilitate the export/ import cargo from the hinterland.
The total cost of NHDP is Rs. 54,000/- crore at the 1999 price level. The government is trying that all projects under NHDP are completed well in time. All-time high profile road infrastructure helps not only in saving time but also reduces cost of fuel and maintenance cost of vehicles. According to a world bank study at 1999 prices, there would be a saving of Rs. 8000/- crore per annum on the Golden Quadrilateral alone.
Though the NHDP is positively a step forward in infrastructure development, yet a lot of work is to be done in the development of state highways and other roads. There are many roads poorly built and poorly maintained due to a shortage of funds and corruption at every level. Corruption is so flagrantly rampant in all kinds of civil construction work that more than 40% of the funds allocated for the purpose are misused by the officials in connivance with the contractors.
India needs new airports for Navi Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, and others. Economic viability and feasibility reports have since finalized. The government is considering starting the work in the joint venture. As regards power India needs around 31000 MW of power under greenfield projects up to 2007. Accordingly to the Union Minister for power, the projects are either under construction or at a very advanced stage of planning and that will definitely be completed within the 10th plan period. As per the Minister besides 31000 MW addition in the 10th plan, 40,000 MW and 51,000 MW are to be added further at a later stage. The Minister said that India would require Rs.800,000 crore investment for adding another 100,000 MW of power capacity over the next years out of which government expects Rs. 80,000 crores from the private sector or Foreign Direct Investments (FDI).
Indian railway to is suffering from poor infrastructure and shortage of coaches etc. The Rakesh Mohan Committee report pointed out “If the railway is to survive as an ongoing transportation organization it has to modernize and expand its capacity to serve the emerging needs of the economy. With the prospect of getting substantial free or subsidized resources from the government being unlikely, the new investment will have to be financed on a commercial basis. This is a big challenge facing the India railways.”
The approach to the 10th plan considers the decline of railways revenue from transportation is because of some policy distortions, like overcharging freights in order to subsidize ordinary passenger fair. Moreover, the investment strategy of railways put more emphasis on opening new lines for passenger traffics and no care to tap the area which has the potential for commercial traffic. The decisions are based on political needs. The commercial angle is given a second thought. This resulted in an alarming deterioration in the financial condition of the railway and so unable to Si undertakes investments to improve railway transport services. Railway has always suffered from overstaffing. The approach paper says; the aim should be that staff m costs including pension remain within the level of 45 percent of gross traffic receipts up to the year 2010. This will imply that the staff will have to be reduced to around 12 to lakh and maintained at that level.
Railway plays an important role in national integration. Travelers of any caste or creed are sitting together at least for the time being during the journey, forgetting all animosity. Railway can’t be made fully commercialized, but it can’t be a burden on the exchequer. There should be a neat blending of both aspects.
The development of infrastructure is the basic requirement for the rapid growth of the Indian economy. The present government has taken care to provide road communication in the vast countryside. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) launched on Dec. 25, 2000, seeks to provide road connectivity through good all-weather roads to all unconnected habitats having a population of more than 1000 persons by the year 2003 and those with a population of more than 500 persons by the end of the tenth plan period, i.e., 2007. Portable water still remains a luxury for most villages. An investment of about Rs.35000 crore has been made in the water supply sector so far. According to official sources, 1235759 rural habitats have been fully covered by the provisioning of a drinking water facility. So far 166832 villages have since been covered. Under the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana, it is proposed to tackle water contamination problems, like fluoride, arsenic, and iron contamination.
Under personal hygiene, cleanliness of the home, and environmental sanitation all hinges on the personal attitude, awareness, education, and economic status of the families. The concept of sanitation was expanded in 1993 to include personal hygiene, home sanitation, safe water, garbage and excreta, and wastewater disposal. The program was further restructured from April 1999 and greater emphasis has now laid on community involvement under what is called the total sanitation campaign. Till 2001, 8777543 toilets have been provided under this program at a cost of Rs.156917 crore. In the rural housing sector, the Centre government-sponsored scheme of Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (Gramin Awaas), Credit cum subsidy scheme for Rural Housing, and Samagra Awaas Yojana is in operation.
A comprehensive self-employment program entitled Swaran Jayanti Gram Swaraj agar Yojana was launched on April 1, 1999, with an aim to develop a large number of micro-enterprises for individuals or groups or self-help groups.
Despite all the rural development programs, rural India is in a malign state. The most challenging task is to check the misappropriation of funds meant for rural development. With corruption becoming an integral part of governance from the panchayat level upwards, the real impact of different schemes for the development of the rural segments is not insight. A nexus between Babus ‘ politicians and contractors take away more than 60% of the funds meant for the development.
Had the funds meant to develop the rural segment would have been utilized for the actual cause the growth of the Indian economy might have reflected a more flourishing state. The efforts put by the government for the development of infrastructure in rural areas are required to be strengthened further. Without proper infrastructure, the pace of growth of the Indian economy can’t be accelerated.
Infrastructure does not mean just the development of roads, railway, and air traffic or power, etc. It will be folly to ignore any single component in either economic or social infrastructure. They are complementary in nature. The development of infrastructure needs the involvement of not only the government agencies but also the private sector, the NGO’s and the hearty involvement of the people at large. Without the foundation of necessary infrastructure, how can we think of building an edifice of economic growth?