Vajpayee's contribution to infrastructure development

Vajpayee proved critics wrong with Golden Quadrilateral highway project

The highway developing project was modelled on the lines of the National Highway System of the US. Vajpayee believed that constructing arterial roads would trigger development. (DH File Photo)

When Atal Bihari Vajpayee launched the Golden Quadrilateral Highway Project in 2001, critics laughed at it saying where are the funds and how will the government acquire the large swathes of land required for the massive scheme.

However, the former PM proved the critics wrong as India's most popular highway projects with 4/6 lanes connecting major metros of the country came up within a few years. Over a few years, more than 5,400 km of new highways were built across the country.

The highway developing project was modelled on the lines of the National Highway System of the US. Vajpayee believed that constructing arterial roads would trigger development.

The Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South and East-West Corridor projects to build highways between four top metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata as well as from Srinagar to Kanyakumari and Porbandar to Silchar received appreciation from his political opponents too, say his admirers.

The rural roads project called the Prime Minister Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was another of Vajpayee's contribution to infrastructure development in the country.

The PMGSY, which launched in 2000, was aimed at providing good all-weather road connectivity to unconnected villages. As thousands of villages got road connectivity, the former PM said roads will lead to the economic development of the hinterland of the country. No doubt, subsequent governments at the Centre also decided to continued these two schemes.

Despite criticism, Vajpayee kicked off privatisation of public sector firms to cut the government's role in running businesses.

The NDA government headed by him sold 32 state-owned companies and hotels to private firms. For the first time ever, a Department of Disinvestment to process privatisation candidates was created and a Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment formed to accord expeditious approvals.

Keeping a view on the country's energy security his government made investments in several foreign oil firms and gas fields.

His government acquired 20 per cent stake in the gigantic Sakhalin-I oil and gas fields in far east Russia for $ 1.7 billion in 2001. Subsequently buying of 25 per cent stake in an oilfield in Sudan for $ 720 million. With the continuation of his government's vision by successive governments, India has made investments in overseas energy projects in nearly 20 countries.

Vajpayee will also be remembered for introducing doping of sugarcane-extracted ethanol in petrol to not just cut import dependence but also provide farmers with an alternative source of income.

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