Last Update: May 2023 (Roads)


This article deals with ‘Road (UPSC Notes).’ This is part of our series on ‘Economics’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • Roads are used to transport over 65% of the total goods and 85% of the passenger traffic.  
  • With about 52 lakh km of the road network, India has the second-largest road network in the world. 
  • The cost to transport with roadways is ₹ 26/ton/km.
  • Presently, India is the fastest highway developer globally, with 27 km of highways built each day.
  • Roads supplement the other modes of transport through last-mile connectivity to the country’s far-flung regions.

Bodies for Road Development

Ministry of Road Transport & Highway

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highway is responsible for road development.
  • Issue: Why separate ministries for Road, Railway, Aviation etc. It leads to a silos approach.

National Highway Authority of India (NHAI)

  • It develops and maintains National Highways.
  • NHAI runs two main programs 
    1. National Highway Development Project (NHDP)
    2. Bharat Mala 

Border Roads Organization (BRO)

  • BRO is mainly concerned with building border roads in accordance with military requirements.
  • Apart from that, it has been entrusted with the construction of roads in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Myanmar.
  • It successfully completed 215 km Delaram-Zaranj road in Afghanistan despite the prevailing insurgency.

Types of the roads

National Highways

  • The responsibility to construct and maintain national highways is that of the Union Government.
  • Three agencies are involved in this, i.e. NHAI, BRO(under defence ministry) and State Public Works Department (PWD)  
  • National Highways connect state capitals. It consists of 1,15,455 km as of 2017 (~2%), but it serves 40% of traffic. Hence, these are highly saturated.


  • Expressways are constructed using Special Purpose Vehicles (usually made through Public-Private Partnership).
  • Expressways are 6 to 8 lane highways that are used to serve high-speed traffic using bridges and underpasses. 
  • Examples include Ahmedabad – Vadodara Highway made by SPV consisting of NHAI and IRB Infra Developers. 

State Highways

  • The responsibility to construct and maintain state highways is that of the State Government.
  • State Highways are used to connect the state capital and district headquarters.

District Roads

  • The responsibility to construct and maintain district roads is that of Zila Parishad.
  • District Roads are used to connect district headquarters with tehsil and block.

Village Roads

  • The responsibility to construct and maintain village roads is that of Gram Panchayats.
  • Village Roads are used to connect villages with neighbouring towns.
  • Village Roads constitutes 61% of all roads.

Note: India’s road density at 1.66 km/ of area is the highest among BRICS countries (but the quality of roads is the main issue)

Programs to develop Road development in India

1. National Highway Development Program (NHDP)

  • NHDP started in 2000, and presently it is in phase 6 (from 2012).
  • It has the following sub-components
    1. Golden Quadrilateral connecting 4 major cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai)
    2. North-South & East-West Corridor connecting Srinagar to Kanyakumari (NH 44) and Silchar to Porbandar (NH 27) 
    1. Road connectivity of all major ports of country to National Highways 
    2. Other National Highway stretches.

Where does NHAI get money from?

  • Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) was created to fund NHAI. It gets funds from CESS imposed on Petrol and (high speed) Diesel. Apart from that, NHAI also raise funds via debt and from development agencies such as World Bank, JICA, ADB etc. From 2020, NHAI is also using Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvITs) to fund various projects. 
  • Before 2018, the fund was solely used to build National and State Highways and rural roads under PMGSY. But presently, Central Road and Infrastructure Fund is used to fund 
    1. Rural roads through PMGSY
    2. NHAI’s NHDP
    3. Inland Waterways Development 
    1. Railway infrastructure 
    2. Social infrastructure, including education institutions
National Highway Development Program ( NHDP)

2. Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY)

  • It was launched on 25th December 2000.
  • It works under Rural Ministry. 

Under PMGSY, all-weather road connectivity is to be given to 

Ordinary Areas Villages having a population of 500 people.
Tribal, North East, Scheduled Areas Villages having a population of 250 people or more.
Naxal Area Villages having a population of 100 people or more.
  • New in PMGSY: Emphasis is on the use of local and green technologies, e.g. waste plastic, geo-textile, iron slag, fly ash etc.
  • It is Core Scheme with Centre to State Sharing = 60:40 for ordinary states and 90:10 for the Special Category States.

3. Bharatmala Project

  • Target: constructing 35,000 km of National Highways in the next five years. 
  • It is an umbrella program that includes the development of 
    • Coastal Roads and Port Connectivity
    • Border Roads and International Connectivity
    • Feeder Routes 
    • Greenfield Expressways 
    • Roads for improving National Corridor Efficiency
    • Roads to balance NHDP works 
  • The scheme is funded via debt, private investment, central road fund and toll collection.  

Side Topic: Parvatmala / National Ropeways Development Program

  • Parvatmala Scheme was announced in Budget 2022. 
  • The Indian government has decided to develop a network of ropeways, instead of roadways, to improve connectivity in the hilly regions. 
  • It is preferred over roadways because it is an ecologically sustainable alternative in difficult hilly areas. 

4. Setu Bharatam Yojana

  • The Bharatmala project has been started to make all national highways free from railway level crossings by 2019. 
  • Under the project, 208 new railway over & under bridges will be built. 
  • Also, 1500 old bridges will be reconstructed.

5. FDI & tax reliefs

  • 100% FDI in the road sector is permitted in the road sector.
  • Private developers are given the right to collect and retain toll.

It has facilitated several foreign companies entering into partnerships with Indian players to capitalize on the sector’s growth.

6. Highways in troubled areas

Special Accelerated Road Development Program in North East (SARDP-NE)

  • It envisages road connectivity to state capitals, district HQ and remote places in the North East region.

Road Requirement Plan (RRP) for improvement of road connectivity in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)

  • The government approved the plan in March 2015 to develop road networks in the LWE affected areas of 34 Districts in 8 States in India.

7. FasTag Project

  • The system uses RFID technology to pay the toll.

North-East Infra Projects

In the recent past, many projects (road, tunnels and bridges) have been made in North East.

Some of the main projects include

1. Bogi-Beel Bridge

  • Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge connects Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The bridge is on the Brahmaputra.

2. Sela Pass Tunnel

  • Sela Pass is situated in Arunachal Pradesh and connects Twang (on Border) and West Kameng district.   

3. Dhola Sadiya

  • Dhola Sadiya is India’s longest bridge measuring 9.15 km.  
  • It is situated on the Lohit River (Tributary of Brahmaputra). 
  • It connects Assam & Arunachal Pradesh.

4. Diffo Bridge

Diffo bridge is built over Diffo River in Arunachal Pradesh.

North-East Infra Projects

Jammu – Kashmir Infra Projects 

In the past 4-5 years, a large number of projects (road, tunnels etc.) have been made in J&K.  Some of the most critical projects are

Chenani Nashri Tunnel (Connects Jammu & Kashmir)

  • It is Asia’s Longest Tunnel- 9.2 Km in length
  • It has reduced the travel between Jammu and Kashmir valley by 41 km.

Zozila Tunnel (Connects Kashmir and Ladakh)

  • Length: 14.15 Km (will be largest in Asia when completed beating Chenani Nashri Tunnel (9.2km)
  • It will connect Kashmir valley with Ladakh.

Chenab Bridge

  • Chenab is the world’s highest Railway Bridge, situated on the Chenab river in Jammu & Kashmir. 

Rohtang Tunnel

  • Rohtang Tunnel is 9 km tunnel cutting through the Pir Panjal range.
  • The tunnel has reduced the distance between Leh and Manali by 46 km and made the area accessible around the year.
Jammu - Kashmir Infra Projects

International Roads

India Myanmar Thailand (IMT)  Highway

  • IMT Highway starts from the Indian city of Moreh (Manipur) up to Mae Sot in Thailand. 

Delaram-Zaranj Highway

  • BRO has completed 215 km Delaram-Zaranj road in Afghanistan despite various threats.

Project Dantak

  • India constructs the roads in Bhutan under Project Dantak.

Other steps taken by the Government

  • The government has adopted the ‘Hybrid annuity model‘ for highway projects.
  • Infrastructure Investment Fund (InvIT): NHAI has been given the mandate to set up an InvIT to monetize its completed stretches of public-funded national highways to mobilize additional resources through capital markets.
  • PMO has started the PRAGATI program
  • The government has allowed 100% FDI in the road sector through automatic routes.
  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is planning to set up Land Acquisition cells across the country to resolve issues related to land acquisition and ensure speedy compensation disbursal.
  • NHAI has signed MoU with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) under ISRO to use spatial technology to monitor and manage National Highways. 

National Highway numbers: Important ones only

National Highway Numbers in India
National Highway Numbers in India (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Until 2010: Old System was used as listed in the National Highways Act of 1956. 

After 2010: The government decided to rationalize numbers as old numbering wasn’t scientific and did not indicate its location and direction. In the new system,

  • east-west highways —> odd numbers —> number increases from north to south
  • north-south highways —> even numbers —> number increases from east to west 

Important National Highways in India

NH 44 Kanyakumari to Srinagar (via all major Cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Agra, Delhi, Ambala, Ludhiana, Jallandhar)
NH 27 Silchar to Porbandar
NH 48 Bangalore to Mumbai to Delhi
NH 16 Chennai to Kolkata
NH 19 Delhi to Kolkata

Note: Presently, NH 44 is the longest Highway.

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019

Why new bill?

  • 1988: Motor Vehicle Act came to force. 
  • But it has outlived its utility as 
    1. A large number of people die in road accidents because they don’t get medical help at the time.
    2. Urban areas have too many vehicles and congested roads.
    3. Lack of effective vehicle standards leads to pollution and accidents.
    4. Juvenile road rashes.
    5. No protection to good Samaritans.
    6. Entry of digital aggregators and no law to regulate them.
    7. Penalties are too small to act as a deterrent.

Provisions of the Act

1. Agency for Road Safety

  • National Road Safety Board (NRSB) has been constituted (as recommended by Sundar committee).  

2. Offences and penalties

  • Penalties have been increased. E.g., Fine for Drunk & Drive has been increased to ₹10,000  (earlier ₹2,000)

3. Juvenile

  • The act has recognized the offences committed by juveniles. 
  • The Guardian and owner of the motor vehicle are also made liable.

4. License and Registration

The act has brought the harmony of registration and licensing process by creating 

  • National Register for Vehicle registration 
  • National Register for Driving Licence

5. Protection of good Samaritans

  • Samaritans are not liable for any civil or criminal action for any injury or death of an accident victim. 

6. Care for road accident victims

  • Under the provisions of the act, the road accident victims will be provided with cashless treatment during golden hour (hour following a traumatic injury).

7. Aggregator services

  • The act requires aggregators (like Uber, Ola etc.) to obtain licenses. 

8. Transportation schemes

The act requires state governments to make transportation schemes that provide for  

  • last-mile connectivity 
  • reducing traffic congestion 

Issues with the Act

  • Anti-federal in Character (according to state parties): Although Road is in the Concurrent List and it is within the legislative jurisdiction of Union, States are raising concern over Sections 66A and 88A, which will empower the Centre to form a National Transportation Policy through a process of consultation, and not concurrence. Hence, the Centre can also make Policy on Rural Mobility, Private Bus Sector in State and Last Mile connectivity in States. But all local leaders have private bus companies, and auto drivers are big vote banks plaguing the whole system. Hence, they don’t want these subjects under Union Government. 
  • Just increasing the fine is not enough. According to IIT Delhi’s research, the deterrent impact depends upon the swiftness and probability of getting caught and penalized.  

Side Topic: Road Accidents  Deaths

Economic cost of 
World's Road 
accidents happen 
accidents to Indian 
in India 


  • Poorly designed roads and blind curves cause a large number of accidents.
  • Poorly maintained roads: A large number of potholes on highways.
  • Negligence on the part of drivers due to drunk driving & overspeeding.
  • Traffic police are unprofessional.
  • Corruption in Licensing of drivers.
  • Due to harassment by Police, Good Samaritans don’t come forward to help the victim. 
  • Hospitals lack the proper infrastructure to provide proper care during Golden Hour.
  • Lack of effective policy because India doesn’t have robust data collection systems to ascertain the causes of crashes and does not have a scientific accident investigation agency. 

Steps already taken

  • iRAD: iRAD is the central database that hosts data related to all the accidents in India gathered by various agencies. It will help in better policy formulation to improve road safety in India.: iRAD is the central database that hosts data related to all the accidents in India gathered by various agencies. It will help in better policy formulation to improve road safety in India.
  • Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 3.6) urged nations to take necessary actions to reduce road crash deaths by 50%. 
  • Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Sadak Yojana has been started to eliminate dangerous spots on highways.
  • Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019  has various provisions like protection to good Samaritans, Free Hospitalisation in Golden Hour etc.
  • The government has made it mandatory for all vehicles to have front seat airbags. 
  • Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) has been made mandatory for manufacturers.
  • 10% of the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) can be used for undertaking road safety measures.
  • India has signed the Brasilia declaration to reduce road accidents and fatalities by half. 
  • Transportation Research and Injury Prevention Centre (TRIP-C)’ with a focus to produce state-of-the-art knowledge to address road transport and traffic safety in India will be opened in IIT Delhi.
  • Stringent Vehicular Standards: The government has made stricter vehicular standards like
    1.  Trucks are prohibited from carrying protruding rods.
    2. Antilocking Brake System (ABS) made mandatory on Heavy Vehicles.
    3. Car Crash Standards to be made mandatory w.e.f. 1st April 2018
    4. AHO (Automatic Headlight On) was made mandatory to make them more conspicuous
    5. Truck Body Code for safe cabins to drivers and other road users


Briefly, the 1960s were also a period of paradigmatic change in thinking about road safety in many High Income Countries. In the US, for instance, this period was one in which the problem (and hence the potential solutions) shifted from being driver-oriented to a more balanced approach, known as the ‘Safe System’ approach. It included interventions focusing on vehicles, road infrastructure, and post-crash care in a broad view of the environment in which crashes happen.

  • Introduce road safety as part of the school curriculum. 
  • KS Radhakrishnan panel on road safety advocates the Zero tolerance policy towards drunk driving & accidents caused by speeding. 
  • Implement Supreme Court Judgement wrt Good Samaritans in letter and spirit and ensure they aren’t harassed. 
  • To get real data to make effective policy, India can learn from Cambodia that combines data from both police and hospitals to get authentic data of accidents.
  • Adopt Tamil Nadu Model: Tamil Nadu has taken the following steps to reduce road accidents.
    • Enforcement of traffic rules about using a mobile phone while driving, wearing a helmet, seat belt etc., strictly.
    • Use of ICT to dispatch ambulance & police rapidly in case of an accident.
    • Highway liquor shops have been closed.
    • The quality of roads has been increased, and warning boards at dangerous turns have been installed. 

1 thought on “Roads”

  1. Very Nice Article & Enjoy to read…Do share like other articles.


Leave a Comment