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March 18, 2013

Trinamool Chief Whip in RS Derek O`Brien speaks on the state of National Highways under UPA

Excerpts of the speech of Trinamool Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha, Mr Derek O`Brien`s speech

SHRI DEREK O'BRIEN (WEST BENGAL): Sir, sadly, we are creating one Hiroshima on the Indian roads every year. Sir, 1,35,000 people died in Hiroshima and India has a dubious world record now that we lose about 1,35,000 people on the roads of India due to accidents. The two big reasons for the loss is this.  One is, of course, I don't want to discuss it today in three minutes. It is what we called the 'Golden Hour' where, within the first hour of an accident; you need to get critical care to the person who met with accident. That is the one point.  The second broad and big reason is, of course, infrastructure. The UPA Government had made a grandeur promise in 2009 — UPA II — that it would build 35,000 kms. of highways in five years at an average 19 kms. per day. Sadly, Sir, this figures is somewhere in the low single digit. Sir, there are many reasons why this is happening. One is, of course, environmental clearances. In a few areas, we understand that there are land acquisition issues. But the biggest issue is lack of funding and concessionaires across the board are finding the proposition of PPP is totally untenable, be it in Andhra Pradesh or Jaipur or Jharkhand or Haryana or be it anywhere. In fact, the concessionaire of the Kishangarh-Udaipur-Ahmedabad, a Rs. 7,500 crores project, walked out of the project. Sir, it is a matter of serious concern. And, if I could spend a few seconds on Bengal, you will know the position. In North Bengal, the situation is very, very bad, because creation of new highways has come to a complete standstill. There is a project in Panagarh which is costing Rs. 25 crore, but only an amount of Rs. 2 crores have been sanctioned and it has caught up in all kinds of delays. And, I don't want to go into the delays here, because the NH-34 is a long, long National Highway connecting various parts of Bengal. It is not only connecting Bengal but it also connects the North-East. It has come to a grinding halt.
Sir, the Hon. Minister has called for some introspection. I think, the need of the hour is not introspection on these highways, because not only they are causing deaths but we also have to realize that 80 per cent of Indians still use road to go from point “A” to point “B” and 65 per cent of freight is still moved on roads. So, introspection is not the need of the hour for highways, we need action. We need some quick action from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Thank you.