A major expansion of the country's National Highway (NH) network is on the anvil.
The road transport and highways ministry is finalising the process of identifying 10,000 km roads running through different states to be upgraded to NHs.
This will mean a better maintenance and upgrade of the highways as once they are declared NH, the resources for its upkeep shifts to the Centre from the respective states.
“One reason for the poor maintenance of many of the state highways is the fact that many states do not have adequate funds to spend on the highway's upkeep. With Centre spending the resource, the NH would be better maintained,” said a senior ministry official.
On June 15, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Planning Commission deputy chairman had also written to CP Joshi, road transport minister to finalise the list of 10,000 km of state highways to be upgraded to NH by the end of August.
At present, while India has the second largest road network of 3.3 million km, the National Highways constitute just 70,548 km, but it carries about 40% of the total road traffic.
“We have set up a committee under the road transport secretary to identify the stretches where it is desirable to convert them from state roads to National Highways,” said road transport minister CP Joshi.
The Empowered Group of Ministers has already decided the procedure which should be used to finalize the list of 10,000 kms of roads
Joshi said that while the states have requested the Centre to upgrade 60,000 km of state highways to NH, the government has as of now decided to convert only 10,000 km. "We will look into whether other state highways meet the criteria to be converted to NH. It has financial implication so we need to look at it carefully," said Joshi.
The Planning Commission has also asked the ministry to look at further expansion of the NH network beyond the 10,000 km.