New Delhi: Emphasising the need for a "robust infrastructure" to unlock opportunities, president Pranab Mukherjee today said the government is not only committed to providing all-weather roads to 1.78 lakh rural habitation but has also revived most of the 73 stalled highway projects.
Ambitious Bharatmala project worth Rs 2.67 lakh crore is on the anvil for development of national highways, while development of waterways is a priority area, the President said addressing the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of Budget Session.
"Robust infrastructure development unlocks opportunities for all....By March 2019, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, 1.78 lakh rural habitations will be connected with all-weather roads," the President said.
The government has revived a majority of the 73 stalled road projects, completed construction of 7,200 km of highways and awarded 12,900 km of highway projects which is "the highest ever number of new highway kilometres awarded", he said.
"My government has formulated an umbrella scheme, Bharatmala, at an estimated cost of over Rs 2.67 lakh crore for development of national highways," he said.
To ensure connectivity to 'Chardham' during all seasons, a project of over Rs 12,000 crore has also been taken up, he said. A special Green Highways Policy 2015 has been launched and a pilot policy for conversion of diesel buses into electric buses has been taken up, he added.
The country recorded the highest ever production of motor vehicles in 2015, the President said adding that guidelines have been issued for protection of Good Samaritans from harassment in road accident cases.
To rejuvenate the shipping sector with focus on Make in India, the government has launched a scheme for financial assistance to domestic shipyards. Several steps for improving the operational efficiency of major ports and for simplifying rules and processes have been initiated.
"In 2015, India achieved the fastest average turnaround time in ports and the highest ever quantity of cargo handled by major ports. My government is keen on promoting extensive use of inland waterways and coastal shipping as an alternative mode of transport," the President said. To give a boost to the mining sector and to bring in transparency in the allocation of mineral resources, the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act, 1957 was amended and auction of mines has commenced, he said.
A National Mineral Exploration Trust has been established for systematic exploration in potential mineral bearing areas using state-of-the-art techniques, the President said. "Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana will implement developmental and welfare projects in mining-affected areas for minimising adverse impacts and ensuring sustainable livelihoods for the affected people," he said.
Mukherjee said his government has fostered competitive cooperation among various States to enhance ease of doing business to boost infrastructure. "State Governments are being encouraged and supported to simplify procedures, introduce e-enabled processes and invest in infrastructure to improve investment climate."
Procedures have been simplified to enhance ease of approvals/clearances. Dedicated Commercial Courts and Commercial Division in High Courts have been established, he said adding the long overdue amendments to the Arbitration Act have been made for speedy resolution of commercial disputes.
The government has also initiated the Smart Cities programme, envisaging city development in a challenge mode, Mukherjee said. In the first phase of the programme, twenty cities have been selected after intense competition among ninety eight cities, he said adding second and third phases are on the anvil.