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Today, you will read General awareness topic: Roads of India, life line of 33 lakh Km
Roads form the part of the basic infrastructure for a nation and in a developing country like India where distances between two major cities can be a couple of thousand kilometres, roads can be actually termed as lifeline of the nation.
History of Indian roads is quite old. Ruling emperors and monarchs of ancient India had constructed numerous brick roads in the cities. One of the most famous highways of medieval India is the Grand Trunk Road. The Grand Trunk Road began in Sonargaon near Dhaka in Bangladesh and ended at Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan. In India, it linked several important cities from Kolkata in the east to Amritsar in the west, while passing through the cities of Patna, Varanasi, Kanpur, Agra, Delhi, Panipat, Ambala, Ludhiana and Jalandhar.
At the time of independence, India inherited a poor road network infrastructure from Britain. Between 1947 and 1988, India witnessed no new major road development projects and there was poor maintenance of the existing ones. Predominantly all roads were single lane and mostly unpaved. India had no expressways and less than 200 kilometers of 4-lane highways.
In 1988, the National Highways Authority of India was established in India by an Act of Parliament. This autonomous entity came into existence on 15th June, 1989. The Act empowered this entity to develop, maintain and manage India’s road network through National Highways. However, even though the Authority was created in 1988, nothing much happened till India introduced widespread economic liberalization in early 1990s. Since 1995, the authority has privatized road network development in India.
As a result over 70,000 kilometres of National Highways have been built by December 2011 out of which 16,500 kilometers are 4-lane or 6-lane modern highways. Till April 2012, India had completed and placed in use over 17,900 kilometres of recently built 4 or 6-lane highways connecting many of its major manufacturing centres, commercial and cultural centres.
Presently the Indian road network of 33 lakh Km. is second largest in the world and consists of expressways, national highways, state highways, major district roads, rural and other roads. Out of these, expressways and national highways are the sole responsibilities of the central govt and are built and managed by the Central Public Works Department (C.P.W.D.). While state highways and other major district roads are built and managed by the respective state governments through its Public Works Department (P.W.D.).
About 65% of freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads. The importance of National Highways can be judged from the fact that while they constitute only about 1.7% of the total road network of India, they carry about 40% of the total road traffic. The pressure on the Indian roads is always increasing and the number of vehicles has been growing at an average pace of 10.16% per annum over the last five years. This calls for a planned, purposeful and target oriented development of the road infrastructure in the country.
Ministry of road transport and highways is the apex organisation under the Central Government and is entrusted with the task of formulating and administering policies for Road Transport, National Highways and Transport Research, in consultation with other Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments/UT Administrations with a view to increasing the mobility and efficiency of the road transport system in the country.
The rate of new highway construction across India has accelerated in recent years. Some of the major projects that are being implemented include the National Highways Development Project, Yamuna Expressway and the KMP (Kundli-Manesar-Palwal) Expressway.
Under former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, India launched a massive program of highway upgrades, called the National Highway Development Project (NHDP), in which the main north-south and east-west connecting corridors and highways connecting the four metropolitan cities have been fully paved and widened into four-lane highways. Some of the busier National Highway sectors in India have been converted to four or six lane expressways – for example, Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Jaipur, Ahmedabad-Vadodara, Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Surat, Bangalore-Mysore, Bangalore-Chennai, Hyderabad-Vijayawada and Guntur-Vijayawada.
India has the distinction of having the world's second highest-altitude motor highway— Leh-Manali Highway, connecting Shimla to Leh in Ladakh, Kashmir. The longest NH is NH7, which runs between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, at the southernmost point of the Indian mainland, covering a distance of 2,369 km and passes through Hyderabad and Bangalore. The shortest NH is the NH47A, which spans 6 km from Ernakulum to Kochi Port.
The main roads in India are under huge pressure and in great need of modernization in order to handle the increased requirements of the Indian economy. In addition to maintenance, the expansion of the network and widening of existing roads is becoming increasingly important. This would then enable the roads to handle increased traffic and also allow for a corresponding increase in the average movement speed on India's roads.
The World Health Organization compilation of road network safety data for major economies found India to have the highest number of road fatalities in the World. With over 135,000 deaths annually, the country has overtaken China and now has the worst road traffic accident rate worldwide, according to the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau or NCRB. The death toll rose to 14 per hour in 2009 as opposed to 13 the previous year.
The low road densities per 1000 people have created significant congestion and slow speeds on existing roads inside cities. Because of the congestion the fuel efficiency of the vehicles in India is very low. This increases the overall fuel consumption and heavy pollution since the engines run inefficiently at such low speeds. Pollutants from poor road network and resultant poor fuel efficiencies include hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide - all of which cause health problems, adverse climate effects and related environmental damage.
India is a vast country where roads serve the purpose of connecting one region to another, one state to another and one metro to another. Road network system of India is important if we want to become an economic superpower. Today there is the need to create more roads, broaden the existing ones and to make them safer so that India is on the road to become a developed nation.
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