Amidst parliamentarians expressing concern over the collection of toll, Union minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari said people will have to pay the same if they want good services, and said the government cannot do away with it as it requires funds to build infrastructure.
However, the minister maintained that toll cannot be collected if roads are not maintained properly.
Gadkari, who was replying to a debate on demands for grants for the Road Transport and Highways Ministry in the Lok Sabha, also urged members from all parties to support the Road Safety Bill as the number of people who have died in road accidents over the past year has crossed 2,00,000. Expressing pain over the deaths caused by road accidents, he said his ministry had identified 786 black spots, adding that poor engineering is one of the main reasons for them.
The minister also said that the NDA government built 40,000 km of highway during its previous term.
Gadkari said his ministry is ready to support every state to set up driving training centres as there is a requirement of 25 lakh drivers in the country. The training centres could be used to train people from tribal and economically weaker communities to provide them jobs, he said.
The minister pointed out that land acquisition is a major problem in road construction projects. He urged state governments to come up with solutions and help find a way out. He said his ministry was not moving forward with the project without 80 per cent completion of land acquisition, and this principle is being followed very strictly.
Talking about ongoing projects, Gadkari said that in three years, the Greenfield Expressway from Gurgaon to Mumbai will bring down the travel time between Delhi and Mumbai to 12 hours. It will pass through backward and tribal areas of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and also save Rs 16,000 crore in land acquisition, he said.
Noting that more than 400 projects worth Rs 3.85 lakh crore were closed when he assumed charge of the ministry in 2014, Gadkari said the Modi government saved NPAs worth Rs 3 lakh crore over the past five years by beginning work on these projects. “There were 403 projects pending when Narendra Modi came to power, involving a cost of Rs 3,85,000 crore. It is a great achievement of the Indian government that we saved bankers of Rs 3 lakh crore of NPAs and now 90 per cent of projects are mo”ing fast,” he said.
He also quoted former US President John F Kennedy to emphasise on the construction of good quality of highways and roads: “American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good.”
Gadkari said his ministry is working to make Delhi pollution-free, adding that pollution levels have come down by 32 per cent due to various efforts, including building peripheral roads to prevent trucks bound for other states from entering the national capital. All new vehicles from April 1, 2020 will comply with Euro 6 emission norms, he said.
The House later passed the Demand for Grants for the ministry. N K Premchandran of RSP withdrew all the cut motions he had moved.