New Delhi: Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has announced the formation of an Empowered Group of State Transport Ministers to advise on policy issues to make the country’s transport sector modern, efficient and transparent. Never mind that this government had pooh-poohed the culture of GoMs and EGoMs of the UPA regime!
The group will be headed by Rajasthan’s PWD and Transport Minister Yunus Khan. Gadkari made this announcement while addressing the 16th meeting of the National Road Safety Council and 37th meeting of the Transport Development Council in New Delhi today. Speaking on the occasion he said that several state road transport corporations are incurring huge losses and the problem has to be addressed by developing an integrated approach for the transport sector in the country.
Gadkari said that the Centre did not want to encroach upon the rights of the States; it rather wanted that the revenues of the States should increase.
Emphasizing the need to improve road safety in the country, Gadkari said that 720 black spots have been identified on National Highways across the country and Rs 11,000 crore have been earmarked to take remedial steps in this regard. He said that presently about 5 lakh accidents take place in the country in which about 1.5 lakh people die every year. The target is to reduce accidents by 50% in the next 5 years. He said that to tackle the problem of traffic jams and accidents, there is a need for a road traffic control system on the lines of Air Traffic Control and River Traffic Control, which will use satellite-based technology.
About strengthening the network of National Highways Gadkari said that the total length of National Highways is planned to be increased to 2 lakh km from the present 96,000 km. He added that a number of access controlled expressways are also coming up in the country.
On the issue of increasing pollution, Gadkari emphasized on promoting the use of environment-friendly fuels such as electricity, ethanol, bio-CNG and bio-diesel. He said that from 1 April 2020, Euro-VI emission norms will be made mandatory and states should prepare for the transition.
Gadkari further announced that e-tolling will be introduced at all toll plazas across the country. With this, vehicles will not be required to stop at the toll plazas for payment of toll. This will cut down the huge pile up of vehicles at these plazas, which causes loss of about 1.5 % to 2 % to the GDP and also a lot of pollution.
Gadkari further said that 1,200 spots have been identified for developing as “highways villages”. These spots will have amenities like resting places, food plazas, refueling stations, shopping malls and helipads. This will help generate employment for neighbouring villages and also create a market for the produce from these villages.
The minister called upon the states to develop bus ports on the lines of airports. He said states may take these initiatives under PPP modes.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan said that this joint meeting of the council is an opportunity for evolving policies in transport sector for efficient and modern transport system. Expressing concern over road accidents he said privilege to drive should not be taken for granted. He specifically called for curbing overloading of the vehicles.
Road Transport & Highways Secretary Sanjay Mitra said that engineering solutions and awareness together can minimize the number of road accidents.