Though Uttar Pradesh is one of the largest state in India, it is also one of the backward states .Due to rural orientation of its economy, the state is not able to share in the gains coming from the rapid growth of services and the manufacturing sector which are prime movers of growth. Removing the infrastructure gap should receive the highest priority. The road sector being one of the key aspects of infrastructure, the major hindrance in the process of connecting the villages to the cities and the state to the country is the implementation of various plans.
Step one of construction of roads include land acquisition from the landowners. In India, the Land Acquisition act (LAA) 1894 had served as the basis for all government acquisition of land for public purposes. UP also followed the same pattern; till the state government declared on March 18, 2015 to simplify land acquisition process under which land could be sold through a simple agreement between the seller and the buyer. The initiative was taken keeping in mind the complexities and time-consuming procedures laid down under LAA of 2013. The government went for a direct sale procedure to overcome problems in procuring land for Agra-Lucknow Expressway in certain belts of Hardoi, Agra and Kannauj. Following opposition from various opposition parties in the Centre, PM Narendra Modi had rolled back LAA in August too. Therefore, one of the major reasons of controversy has been solved.
Second step is the construction of roads. UP has very limited resources of stone aggregates and petroleum crude based bitumen. The longterm strategy must be to convert all bituminous surfaces by cement concrete. The use of fly-ash as partial replacement of cement in concrete pavements must be promoted.
As UP is on the threshold of a giant leap forward in the road modernisation, it is of special concern that the development shall take care of sustainability. Sustainability shall take into account the physical resources needed to build and maintain the roads. Soil for forming road embankments will be needed in large quantities for widening the roads, for constructing new roads and for approaches to bridges and railway over bridges.
Since UP is located in the plains of the river Ganga and its tributaries, natural outcrops of rock are rare and are located near the Himalayan foothills, Aravali and Vindhyan ranges. Leads of 200-400 km are common, involving huge costs and wastage of precious propulsion fuel like diesel. Thus, UP has to explore means to reduce the use of stone aggregates. Extensive irrigation in the area along with the alluvial soil of Gangetic plain declares the soil sodic and salty respectively. Not being beneficial for the construction of roads it is essential to use cement and stabilised soil to counterbalance the side effects.
Maintenance of roads is the third problem.The Public Works Department (PWD) builds and maintains SHs and MDRs whereas ODRs and VRs are built by the Rural Engineering Services Department which comes under the Ministry of Minor Irrigation and Rural Engineering Services. Neither do the authorities have sufficient funds to function efficiently nor are they penalized for poor performance. For example, the roads constructed under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) by RES are provided funds for the first five years. Constructions carried out by external contractors are not liable to maintenance after the first five years. Such programmes must be discontinued. Performance oriented contracts must be promoted.The focus should be on the maintenance of the existing network rather than constructing more roads at the moment. The budget allocated is thinly spread among the various sanctioned projects running, as all the projects need to be in proportion with the available funds. There are multiple programmes running in UP which even after procuring funds from the government for the construction of roads cannot procure funds for their maintenance. Such programmes must be discontinued. Uttar Pradesh budget 2015-16 has allocated Rs. 17,871 crore for roads and bridges. Yet amidst protests from opposition members Rs. 700 crore for roads (including Rs. 235 crore for four laning, Rs. 20 crore in Naxal-infested areas, and Rs. 20 crore for identifying black spots in accident-prone areas) and Rs. 300 crore for Agra-Lucknow Expressway has been proposed in August 2015.
Condition of roads in UP are unsatisfactory. More than one-third of the roads in UP are unsurfaced and half of the surfaced area is non-motorable.The problem has its roots in the historical fact that the streets have been laid out several years ago in these urban settlements. They are narrow, lack drainage, and are severely encroached upon by hawkers. The traffic is heterogeneous, composed mainly of pedestrians, cyclists and cycle rickshaws. The motorized two-wheelers and three-wheelers have now grown in large numbers. Utilities such as electric cables, telephone cables, water pipes and sewers are located beneath the roads. The pavement condition is universally very poor because of lack of drainage and timely maintenance. This calls for construction of bypasses. Elevated roads are better option where land acquisition is still a problem in implementation.
Road accidents cannot be neglected either. A proper road must include service lanes as well as pedestrian and cycle path. Pre-accidental measures such as electronic surveillance in highways must be adopted. The traffic in-charge must always be present at his post. Trimming of roadside trees for better vision at curves, speed breakers and street lights are effective measures to avoid accidents, especially during foggy winters. Statistics of UP are unsettling as far as road accidents are concerned.
Image 1: Road accident deaths in major states in past decade (2004-2013)
(Source: Times of India)
Lastly, as of 2013, UP has the seventh-highest road density in India (1027 km per 100 sq. km) and the largest surfaced urban road network in the country (50,721km). However, the population density of 828 people per square km creates congestion problems. Therefore, though the connectivity is good but it is still inadequate in the sense of feeding the population.