Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday asserted that the Narendra Modi government has accorded the highest priority to the Northeast and sanctioned national highway projects worth nearly Rs 3 lakh crore for the region in the last 10 years.
He inaugurated and laid the foundation for 26 national highway projects worth over Rs 17,500 crore for Assam.
Speaking at a function on the last of his two-day visit to Guwahati, Gadkari said, “If infrastructure is good, industry, trade and agriculture will flourish.”
“There was no dearth of money, only a dearth of people willing to work. That changed under Modi ji. What was not achieved in 65 years was done in the last 10 years,” the Union minister added.
He said infrastructural development was a prerequisite for the development of the Northeast, and also stressed the region’s potential in alternative fuels and bamboo.
Making suggestions for decongesting Guwahati, Northeast’s largest city, he said the foundation stones of two crucial projects in this regard — Guwahati ring road and ropeway from Kamakhya railway station to Kamakhya temple – will be laid in January next year.
“I suggested Chief Minister (Himanta Biswa Sarma) to acquire land near the proposed ring road and shift wholesale markets and automobile showrooms to those areas. I feel the ring road can bring down traffic and curb pollution in the city,” he said.
Gadkari said his ministry can also explore the viability of sky-buses for Guwahati if the state government comes up with a proposal.
He said the multi-modal logistics park in Jogighopa in Assam is nearing completion and is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February next year.
The minister said the Numaligarh-Gohpur tunnel under the Brahmaputra River and the elevated corridor over Kaziranga National Park are in various stages of planning and project details preparation.
Among the projects inaugurated and laid foundation for were the Dibrugarh-Tinsukia-Ledo project, which aims to boost interstate connectivity between Upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and the Silchar-Lailapur road connecting Barak Valley and Mizoram.
“NH-137 will enhance connectivity in Dima Hasao and provide an alternate route to western Manipur. The Paikan-Guwahati airport section will facilitate the multi-modal logistics park at Jogighopa. Also, the construction of new bridges will alleviate congestion and enhance trade, tourism, and socio-economic progress in the region,” Gadkari added.
Earlier in the day, while addressing a press conference after reviewing the progress of NH works in the region, Gadkari said national highway projects worth nearly Rs 3 lakh crore have been sanctioned for the Northeast in the last 10 years, increasing the length of these highways by 45 per cent in the region.
He, however, said that the authorities were facing land acquisition problems in states such as Nagaland and Meghalaya, and warned that projects could be closed if the issues were not resolved soon.
“Projects worth Rs 2,89,425 have been sanctioned for the Northeast in the last 10 years. These comprise upcoming, ongoing and completed projects. If we include the funds given for ropeways and the multi-modal logistic park at Jogighopa, it amounts to nearly Rs 3 lakh crore,” he said.
He said the length of the national highways in the region has gone up from about 10,800 km in 2014 to 15,740 km at present.
Expressing concern over land acquisition in states such as Nagaland and Meghalaya, the minister said, “Land acquisition laws are passed by Parliament and states frame the rules. At times, it becomes difficult to acquire land due to these state rules. We have appealed to the states to make the land acquisition process transparent and time-bound.”
He said a meeting between the chief secretaries of the states and his ministry officials is being mooted, with the minister likely to himself visit the states facing these problems.
“If land acquisition is not done on time, some projects which are getting delayed by 2-3 years will be closed,” the minister warned.
He said such problems are not being faced in Assam, lauding the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led government for expediting the process.
The minister also sanctioned Rs 600 crore under the Central Road Fund (CRF) and Rs 200 crore under the Setu Bandhan scheme for Assam.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while addressing the press meet, thanked the Union minister for several crucial projects for the state, foundation stones for which will be laid soon.
“The Guwahati ring road will not only help traffic management and expand the city, but it will also lead to the construction of the fourth bridge over the Brahmaputra in Guwahati,” he said.
The elevated corridor over Kaziranga National Park is another important project, with the CM stating that the foundation could be laid before next year’s Lok Sabha election. The tunnel under the Brahmaputra River connecting Numaligarh and Gohpur, and the four-laning of the Mangaldai-Tezpur road are two other major projects.