Union Budget 2019: If there is an overarching theme in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's first budget in this term then it is all-round development of a world-class infrastructure in the country. Connectivity for Prime Minister Modi does not only mean more highways, airports, and waterways, it also includes easy use of these facilities through a common national mobility card. Connectivity for Modi government also includes world-class communication network. Modi government's thrust on building a world-class infrastructure can be gauged from the fact that building physical and social infrastructure was on top of the 10 points of his government's vision laid out by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the start of her budget speech.
By putting infrastructure at the top of the government's vision, Prime Minister Modi has sent a strong signal that infrastructure development is going to be his top priority in the second term. India has been often been criticised for the abysmally poor quality of its rail and road network. The absence of quality infrastructure has often been blamed for hampering the faster economic growth.
“Connectivity is the lifeblood of an economy,” said Sitharaman at the start of her speech adding that the government has given a massive push to all forms of physical connectivity.
Highways and Waterways
The massive push includes connecting all the habitations through all weather roads under PM Gram Sadak Yojana, building a network of industrial corridors and dedicated freight corridors which will have manufacturing centres along the sideways. It will also include Bharatmala project that will connect the country through a network of world-class highways, while Sagarmala project will develop a grid of seaports and connecting infrastructure in coastal areas. Sagarmala will boost port-linked industrialisation and the country's export.
The government will also develop national waterways for affordable transportation of goods by making Indian rivers navigable.
Prime Minister Modi had launched UDAN scheme in his first term for making air travel affordable for the common man. Sitharaman said India has become the third largest domestic aviation market in the world. The government will now push for developing aircraft financing and leasing model in the country. It will also leverage the country's large engineering pool to develop it as a hub for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.
There is a clear departure in the government's approach in the second term as there was no mention of PM Modi's favourite bullet train project in this year's budget speech. Rather, the focus has shifted to development of sub-urban railways and on connecting cities located at small distances like Delhi and Meerut. Another focus area is the development of metro rail network in the country that will improve public transport within the cities and reduce load and congestion on city roads.
The government estimates that development of a world-class railway network in the country would require investment of Rs 50 lakh crore by 2030. It means Rs 1.5 lakh crore per year. The government is working to tap Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for faster development of railway projects.
Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a slew of measures and concessions in the budget for faster adoption of electric vehicles under the Faster Adoption and Manufacture of Electric vehicle (FAME). She said electric vehicles are fast emerging as a pollution-free and sustainable mode of urban transportation.
National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)
With the rapid development of transportation infrastructure in the country, the government also wants to provide ease of use. PM Modi has already launched a common mobility card in March this year. It can be used for metro and bus travel, payment of toll taxes and parking charges and even for retail shopping and withdrawing money.
In her maiden budget speech, Nirmala Sitharaman spent considerable time and energy in explaining the government's vision for the infrastructure sector. The second term of a leader is often considered legacy term when they leave long term impact on the society and country. In his first term, Prime Minister Modi often talked about how lack of connectivity was the main reason behind lack of development in north and north-east India. His second term presents him a fresh opportunity to implement his vision.