Jaitley Is Back To Basics, Bets on Infra To Achieve All-Round Growth
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's Budget Speech on Thursday clearly focuses on measures that would improve the rural economy and those living in those areas. At the same time, the common man, too, is a key area of focus, especially the economically weaker sections and the lower-middle class. With a dedicated affordable housing fund meant for these sections, infrastructure and allied industries, too, will get a shot in the arm.
In the Centre's scheme of things, infra happens to be the top priority. This is evident from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally reviews the progress made by infra projects personally, the FM said in his Speech.
"Infrastructure is the growth driver of the economy. Our country needs massive investment in access of Rs 50 lakh crore in infrastructure to increase growth of gross domestic product, and integrate the nation with a network of roads, airports, railways, inland water and to provide good quality services to the people,” the FM said.
Major infrastructure projects have been set on the fast-track mode with a Budget allocation of Rs 5.97 lakh crore for the financial year 2018-19, an increase by over Rs 1 lakh crore from the current allocation.
Let us have a closer look.
Work in progress, from all sides
Infrastructure development in rural areas will also be a priority with plans to create all-weather roads and major link routes to all the habitations, under the Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana Phase-III. A total of Rs 14.34 lakh crore for the year 2018-19 has been allocated for the purpose. The proposed 3.17-lakh kilometre of roads will be accompanied by 51 lakh new houses, 1.88 crore toilets and electricity connections to 1.75 crore new households.
The high road
Road developments, as opined by experts during pre-Budget discussions, will be accelerated. National highways that span over 9,000 km will be completed in 2018-19. The Bharatmala scheme worth Rs 6.92 lakh crore, launched with the objective of seamless connectivity to interior and backward areas and borders of the country, has been approved. The Phase-I of this project includes development of 35,000 km of highways at an estimated cost of Rs 5.35 lakh crore.
Get on the train
Emphasising on the promise to develop the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, the FM also talked about revamping the transport system of Mumbai, India's financial capital. Double line tracks of 90 kilometres in the city will be added at a cost of over Rs 11,000 crore. An additional suburban network of 150 km is being planned to cover elevated corridors on some sections at an expense of over Rs 40,000 crore. Similarly, the suburban network in Bengaluru will receive an addition of 160 km at an estimated cost of Rs 17,000 crore.
The Indian Railway Station Development will revamp around 600 major railway stations with facilities such as escalators at stations with over 25,000 footfalls, Wi-Fi connectivity and CCTV cameras. Modern train-sets with state-of-the-art amenities will be designed at the Integrated Coach Factory, Perambur, Chennai.
Sky is the limit
Highlighting the growth of domestic air passenger traffic of 18 per cent per annum in the country, Jaitley spoke of enhancing the regional connectivity under the government-sponsored scheme UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik). Easy accessibility for around 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads across the country is has been planned. Operations have already started at 16 regional airports.
With the presence of 124 airports managed by the Airport Authority of India (AAI), proposal to expand the capacity of airports by over five times was made along with a new initiative, NABH Nirman, to equip airports to handle a billion trips a year.
The rest of the spread
Bolstering the connectivity to border areas was also on the agenda as the FM spoke of the successful completion of the Rohtang tunnel that brings all-weather connectivity to the Ladakh region. Tunnel projects such as Zozila Pass tunnel and the Sela Pass will be provided the much-needed push in the coming year. The government has committed to designing vital frameworks for supporting investment in sea plane activities, for promoting tourism and emergency medical care.
Jaitley assured the government's dedication to the other infrastructure projects such as ropeways to promote tourism, logistics parks and development of commercial land around railway stations.