Evaluating recent trends pertaining to roads in Karnataka, we may end up asking ourselves the question: Who is actually building Karnataka’s roads, especially its rural roads? For an answer, we may look at the Economic Survey of Karnataka 2017-18. It appears from the survey that it is the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) that has been making a significant impact on the development of Karnataka’s rural roads.
Now, states, too, play a role in implementing Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs). In Karnataka’s case, going by the state Economic Survey, it appears that in comparison to state-run road schemes, PMGSY stands out in impacting rural lives in Karnataka.
Also, recent sanctions in National Highway projects seem to be changing the connectivity map of Karnataka for the better. PMGSY and NHs put together appear to be making the most impact, as the infographic below lists:
Karnataka Roads: State & Centre
In building rural roads, the Economic Survey of Karnataka 2017-18 mentions Mukhya Manthri Grameena Rasthe Abhivruddhi Yojane and RIDF schemes, besides PMGSY.
As of November 2017, under PMGSY, Rs 4,740.35 crore had been spent and 18,536.54 km of road length asphalted.
When it comes to Mukhya Manthri Grameena Raste Abhivruddi Yojane, the report just talks about Rs 24,105.00 lakh, or Rs 241 crore, provided in the annual budget for 2017-18.
Under RIDF Nabard-23, the state government had administratively approved 116 road works for Rs 7,292.80 lakh, or Rs 72.9 crore, and 5 bridge works for Rs 370.00 lakh, or Rs 3.7 crore, during 2017-18.
Out of the 116 road works and 5 bridge works, the state Economic Survey says that all the works are yet to start – that is, at the time of the survey itself. Therefore, PMGSY would appear to be at the forefront in the construction of rural roads in Karnataka.
Fate of Bengaluru’s Roads
It seems that Bengaluru might have been a better place if the state government had drawn inspiration from the quality and pace of work under the Centrally sponsored PMGSY in rural Karnataka.
However, a number of news reports appear to portray the seeming apathy of the state’s administration when it comes to maintaining the city’s roads, which reportedly are witnessing a last-minute rush of work in election season. There are news reports of pothole-related deaths which would tend to tarnish the city’s image. At least 4 deaths due to potholes have been reported in a month.
But when questions were raised about the deaths of 4 people in a month due to potholes, Chief Minister S. Siddaramaiah reportedly retorted angrily with the words: “What can we do?”.
When elections came round the corner, Mr Siddaramaiah issued what appeared to be a rather impractical order to the local body administration — to fix 15,000 potholes in 15 days:
These were all instances widely reported in news – and it may be asked if they reflect the attitude of the state administration towards road-building and maintenance as well as infrastructure.
National Highways: Karnataka Focus
It is interesting to note how the Centre has evidently been rewarding National Highway projects to Karnataka, with special focus on the northern part of the state, which comprises the more backward regions.
Since the broader facts have been covered by the infographic above, let us now see how some projects are expected to usher in largescale change:
- As of July 2017, a total of 13 works amounting to Rs 7,216 crore are in progress in north Karnataka. These are scheduled for completion between December 2017 and March 2019.
- Four-laning of about 110 km of the Solapur-Bijapur section of new NH-52 (formerly NH-13) in Maharashtra and Karnataka has many benefits.
- The above project is estimated at Rs 1,889 crore and has the following benefits:
- decongestion of the urban areas of Solapur and Bijapur
- connectivity to nearby important tourist places of Bijapur, Hampi and Chitradurga.
- increase in employment potential for local labourers from project activities
- relaxation facilities for truck drivers
- Laning of Hubli-Hospet section and laning of Hospet-Bellary-Karnataka/ Andhra Pradesh Border Section has the following benefits:
- The 144-km long Hubli-Hospet section connects major district headquarters: Gadag, Koppal, Hubal-Dharwad city to Hospet town, which is a mineral-rich belt and is home to many iron and steel plants
- The 95-km long Hospet-Bellary-Karnataka/Andhra border section falls in the Bellary district and covers important towns like Hospet, Toranagallu and Bellary. Hampi, near Hospet, is a World Heritage Site and attracts a large number of tourists in the region.
- Bangalore to Dindigul NH-209 has been taken for an upgrade
- Bangalore-Ramanagara-Channapattna-Mandya-Mysore-Madikeri-Mangalore has been declared as National Highway
- 146 NH projects were earmarked for Karnataka for the just-ended fiscal 2017-18. During fiscal 2016-17, a total length of 240 km, and during the last fiscal (till end-June 2017), a total length of 49.6 km was converted to 4/6 lane in the state.
The facts and data above seem to offer us information not only about how Karnataka has been faring in road construction but also about who has been contributing — and to what extent — in connecting Karnataka through road networks.