Patna: As it celebrates its first year in office, the Narendra Modi government claims it has built many more kilometres of highways per day than the previous Congress-led government did. Transport minister Nitin Gadkari said he aims to go from building 12 kilometres of national highways daily in 2014, to 30 kilometres by 2017.
In Bihar, however, not even one kilometre of new road a day was added to the highway network in 2014, according to the National Highways Authority of India. The stats were much the same in 2013, when the UPA was in power.
The Janata Dal United government of Nitish Kumar alleges that not only are new projects progressing very slowly in Bihar, even the repair of old highways is stuck because the BJP-led Centre refuses to release funds.
4000 kilometres of national highways run through Bihar. The state government says central funds in 2014 for maintaining national highways in Bihar, a little over 150 crores, were just not enough. Meanwhile, roads like the stretch between Patna and Arrah on National Highway 30 are in poor shape and in urgent need of repair.
“How many roads should I talk about? National Highways in Bihar are in such bad shape. Either the Centre should do something about it, or just write a letter to us saying repair on your own and money will be paid later. If we do this on our own the CAG will raise an objection,” Mr Kumar said at a function recently.
Sources close to Nitin Gadkari say there have been long delays in Bihar in matters like land acquisition for highway construction, which is the responsibility of the state. Land acquisition for highways in Bihar went down three-fold between 2011 and 2014, they point out.
While allegations and counter-allegations fly, the people of Bihar are still waiting for better roads. Like the Bhojpuri singer who sang at Nitish Kumar’s janta darbar or public gathering on Monday, “O Nitish Bhaiya, ek road hamra bhi banwai do na (Oh Nitish Kumar, please get a road made in my area too).”