Centre to unveil programme to develop new national highways

The focus of the 'Rashtriya Mahamarghs' (national highways) under the 'Bharat Mala' programme is likely to be on connecting border areas

Highway 2

CHENANI (J&K), July 14: A programme to develop new national highways will be unveiled soon by the central government with focus likely to be on connecting border areas. "We are going to announce 'Rashtriya Mahamarghs' (national highways) under the 'Bharat Mala' programme soon," Union Minister for Transport, Roads and Highways Nitin Gadkari told reporters here. The government, under the Bharat Mala programme, wants to connect each district of the country with national highway besides the backward areas, he said. "Under Bharat Mala project, we will focus on the setting up roads in border districts... We are working on border roads under Bharat Mala project," said Gadkari who was here in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir in connection with the launch of a road project. There is 96000-km length of national highway in the country and there are 48000 kms of other roads, he said, adding two percent of it belongs to his ministry. "I want to add 30000 kms to this road length," he said. He said the government wants to develop tourism and religious tourism related roads apart from port connectivity. Gadkari was talking to reporters after inaugurating a project to connect two ends of the 12-km-long Chenani-Nashri tunnel, which is South-East Asia's longest. "I am holding discussions with state government and will set up road length here in the border district. Besides all those roads which have traffic of 10000 and above units, will be upgraded four-lane roads," he said. To a question regarding heavy burden on people due to toll, the minister said, "It was done by previous UPA government. They had given permission for collection of toll after completing 75 percent of the work. But we are bringing changes to it. We are changing the norms." He said the government has decided that for works below Rs 100 crore, the toll would be cancelled. "We are formulating a new toll policy, which will benefit maximum people of the country. We have sent the papers," Gadkari said. He said the government has also started work on inland waterways at five places and is setting up water-ports like airports. "We have allowed hover crafts. The islands will be used for this. We are setting up 190 light houses," he said.