A World Bank study estimates that every one rupee spent on building roads generates an additional Rs 7 in economic value over the medium term.
Deriving inspiration from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relentless focus on ensuring that fruits of development reach the remotest parts of hinterland through creation of green and sustainable transportation network rivalling the developed world, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has successfully commissioned the first phase (Nagpur to Shirdi) of its ambitious 701 km Nagpur to Amane (Bhiwandi) six-lane wide (expandable to eight-lane) access-controlled Samruddhi Expressway.
The Maharashtra government has also announced a 225 km eastward extension of Samruddhi Expressway to cover tribal-dominated districts of Bhandara, Gondia and Gadchiroli, which, despite being rich in natural resources, are suffering from chronic poverty due to lack of world-class connectivity. This extension once implemented will pave the way for effective outreach for improvement in health and education initiatives and catalyse large-scale capital investments for generation of mass employment among tribal population. Such economic and social transformation can blunt the appeal of ultra-left radical ideologies and help in mainstreaming vulnerable sections of society.
Total capital outlay incurred for the 701 km Nagpur-Amane (Bhiwandi) stretch is estimated at Rs 55,000 crore ($6.7 billion). The project will undoubtedly act as the biggest force multiplier for creating multiple economic growth engines in the drought-prone hinterland districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra through rapid connectivity to the highly prosperous, coastal region of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) by providing super-fast access to international trade and export markets through the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT).
Travel times for personal transport and cargo will come down by 50%, achieving cost savings and making the local produce more competitive in domestic and export markets.
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Need Amane to JNPT connector
Samruddhi Expressway is ending abruptly at village Amane in Bhiwandi Taluka of Thane district defeating the whole purpose of faster connectivity to JNPT, which is 74 km away. To take this mammoth investment to its logical conclusion, the Maharashtra government must build an eight-lane connector (expandable to 10 lanes) between Amane and JNPT. In case space constraints on ground act as an obstacle, an elevated access-controlled stretch needs to be constructed to complement and complete this Expressway so as to derive its full benefits. Else, lack of this last mile connectivity of 74 km will end up substantially negating time and cost savings for users of the Expressway. With Bhiwandi’s emergence as one of the largest warehousing and logistics hub in MMR region and resulting massive traffic congestion, the imperative to have this seamless spur to JNPT is all the more important.
Connection to Mumbai Trans Harbour Link
The Maharashtra government is also constructing India’s longest 21.8 km long Trans Harbour link connecting Sewri on the Island city of Mumbai to Chirle on the mainland.
A seamless connectivity between Samruddhi Expressway and Mumbai can only be achieved by connecting Amane to Chirle (54 km) for onward journey to Sewri. An exit can be provided at Chirle for the proposed connector between Amane and JNPT.
The Maharashtra government’s Rs 55,000 crore capital investment can be further leveraged by the Centre by using the Samruddhi Expressway as the gateway to the east coast of India.
Prime Minister Modi has always emphasised on the necessity to catalyse large investments in the eastern and north eastern parts of India to achieve equitable growth and create large-scale employment opportunities and centres of growth from Purvanchal to Arunachal. Value addition through optimum utilisation of natural resources using skilled local human resources will not only increase all-round prosperity but also stem large-scale economic migration from this region.
Coast to Coast seamless connectivity
The government of India and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should use Samruddhi Expressway’s exit from Nagpur at Shivmadka as the starting point for constructing two six-lane (expandable to eight-lane) greenfield access-controlled expressways with new, straight alignments to seamlessly connect the major ports on the east coast namely Paradeep in Odisha (915 km) and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh (807 km). These will act as direct linkages between JNPT and major ports on the east coast.
These two expressways will pass through the tribal-dominated regions of Chhattisgarh and Odisha spurring large-scale capital investments by leveraging the regions natural and human resources leading to proliferation of economic opportunities as well as better health and education facilities. This will bring seminal change in the lives of tribal population.
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Connecting West Coast to India’s heartland
Two more six lane access-controlled greenfield expressways (expandable to eight-lanes) must be considered to connect the vibrant west coast through the Samruddhi Expressway to the spiritual and cultural heartland of India namely Awadh-Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh (Nagpur to Ayodhya 825 km) and Bihar (Nagpur to Patna 985 km).
New, greenfield alignment from Nagpur to Patna through Gondia will pass through the tribal-dominated states of Chhattisgarh and Naxal-dominated districts of south-west Bihar catalysing much-needed investments in these economically backward regions that are prone to Maoist insurgency with potential to transform fortunes of its inhabitants.
Investments in these two access-controlled expressways with greenfield alignments will not only act as corridors that spread samruddhi (prosperous economic growth) but also as a magnet for religious and spiritual fulfilment for crores of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs through ease of travel to holy cities in Awadh, Purvanchal, and Bihar.
These four access-controlled greenfield expressways leveraging the Samruddhi Expressway will spur lakhs of crores of investment in sectors like manufacturing, mining, agriculture and agro-processing, warehousing, logistics parks, trade, tourism and hospitality; act as a unifying force by encouraging religious and spiritual tourism and most importantly create immense opportunities for economic and social well-being in some of India’s most backward and tribal-dominated regions.
Ajay Bodke is an analyst covering economic & financial policy and markets. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant)
Source: The Print