The development of transport in India is a saga and the vision of the Congress party
Transport plays a very crucial role in Indian Economy. This
was because of the efforts of the successive governments of the Congress that
India was able to develop a strong network of Road, Railways, Aviation and
Water transport. After independence India has progressed a lot as far as
freight and public transport are concerned. India has achieved many world-class
milestones in aviation, railway and road transport. Only the veteran leaders of
the Congress party with their vision could be credited for these achievements.
This is very surprising that ever since the BJP led ND
government, with Narendra Modi as its prime minister, came into power they are
into the politics of changing the names of the roads and airports in India.
Modi government has done nothing creative to improve these sectors but they
have just stopped the development of the transport system.
By the time of independence of the country a lot had to be done
in the field of transport and whatever India had achieved in this sector during
the colonial rule that was as per the wishes of the British rulers. So, after
independence the Congress governments put it on their priority list because
without developing a good transport system economic development could have been
a very tough task. After independence since formation of the first Congress
government till UPA-II, the development of transports was a major achievement
of the Congress government and itis importance to understand transport
development under the colonial rule.
Up to the middle of the 19th century, the means of transport
in India were backward. They were confined to bullock cart and packhorse. The
British rulers soon realized that a cheap and easy system of transport was a
necessity if British manufactures were to flow into India on a large scale and
her raw materials secured for British industries. They introduced steamships on
the rivers and set about improving the roads. Work on the Grand Trunk Road from
Calcutta of Delhi was begun in 1839 and completed in the 1850s. Efforts were
also made to link by road the major cities, ports and markets of the country
but real improvement in transport came only with the coming of the railways.
Railways developed rapidly in the Britain during the 1830s
and 1840s. Pressure soon mounted for their speedy construction in India. In
India the first railways line running from Bombay to Thane was opened to
traffic in 1853. By the end of 1869 more than 6000 kms of railways had been
built by the guaranteed companies, but this system proved very costly and slow
and so in 1869 the government of India decided to build new railways as state
enterprises. After 1880, railways were built through private agency. By 1950
nearly 45000 kms of railways had been built.
In their planning, constructions and management of the railway
the economic and political development of India and her people was not kept in
the forefront. On the contrary, the primary consideration was to serve the
economic, political and military interests of British imperialism in India. The
railway lines were laid primarily with a view to linking India’s raw material
producing areas in the interior with the ports of export. The needs of Indian
industries regarding their markets and their sources of raw materials were
neglected. Moreover, the railway rates were fixed in a manner so as to favour
imports and export and to discriminate against internal movement of goods.
Several railway lines in Burma and North-Western India were built at high cost
to serve British imperial interests.
After India independence Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru took charge as
India’s first Prime Minister who knew that real improvement in transport could
only be with the development of the railways. By 1947, the year of India’s
independence, there were forty two rail
systems. In 1951 the systems were nationalized as one unit, becoming one of the
largest networks in the world. Under the supervision of the Ministry of
Railways. Indian Railways provides an important mode of transport in India, transporting
over 18 million passengers and more than 2 million tones of freight daily
across one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world.
Indian Railways is divided into seventeen zones and sixty seven
divisions, each having a divisional headquarters. Only the rail networks
Congress government could be credited with traverses through the length and
breadth of the country, covering more than 7,000 stations over a total route
length of more than 65,000 km and track length of about 115,000 km. About22,224
km or 34% of the route-kilometer was electrified as on 31 March 2012. Because
of the policies of the Congress government Indian Railways is the world’s
largest commercial or utility employer, with more than 1.4 million employees.
To compete with international standards the congress government
also started a number of special types of services which are given higher
priority. The Rajdhani trains introduced in 1969 provide connectivity between the
national capital, Delhi and capitals of the states. On the other hand, Shatabdi
Express provides connectivity between centers of tourism, pilgrimage or
business. Trains run over short to medium
distances and do not have sleepers while the Rajdhani Expresses run over
longer distances and have only sleeping accommodation. The 12001 Bhopal
Shatabdi express, however, runs at a peak speed of 150 km/h on small stretches
which makes it the fastest train in India.
It was the vision of the Congress leaders that the other
specialized services operated by the Railways are the Duronto Express (without
any commercial stop between the origin and the destination but with a few
technical stops for crew change and food
intake) and Garib Raths that provide cheap no-frill air-conditioned rail
travel. Besides, The Indian Railways also operates a number of luxury trains
which cater to various tourist circuits. For instance, the Palace on Wheels
serves the Rajasthan circuit and The Golden Chariot serves the Karnataka and
Goa circuits. This was because of the sincere efforts of the Congress
government that UNESCO has considered the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the
Mountain railways of India as World Heritage Sites on Indian railway. Mountain
railways comprise three separate historic railway lines located in different
parts of India. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway,
The Kalka-Shimla Railway.
The Indian Railways has also initiated a number of highly
ambitious projects to provide connectivity to the remote and inaccessible areas
of the country. The 738 km long Konkan Railway
with around 2000 bridges and 92 tunnels is one such highly difficult project
through fragile mountainous terrain of the Konkan region Salient features of
Konkan railway to connect two important port cities of Mangalore and Mumbai by a
short route and was constructed in 1991-1998. Another such highly ambitious
project is the Kashmir Railway, the Kashmir valley part of which was completed
Under the guidelines of the Congress leadership the Konkan Railway
Corporation introduced the Roll on Roll off (RORO)service, a unique road-rail
synergy system, on the section between Kolad in Maharashtra and Verna in Goa,
which was extended up to Surathkal in Karnataka in 2004.The RORO service, the
first of its kind in India, allowed trucks to be transported on flatbed
trailers. It was highly popular, carrying about 110,000 trucks and bringing in
about ¹ 740 million worth of earnings to the corporation till 2007.
The Congress governments gave such a direction and outline
to the Indian Railways that it could be cost effective and comfortable mode of
transportation for the common people and it could also support the commercial
activities trade within the country.
In the same manner development of roads in the country was
also very important in the country. After the independence in1951 the total
road network in India measured approximately40000 kilometers and during 1947-69
total length of the National Highways in India was around 24000 kilometers.
This is another major achievement of the Congress leaders and Congress
government that the Indian road network becomes of the largest road network in
the world. Today the total length of road in India is 4.24 million kilometers.
India has a network of National Highways connecting all the
major cities and state capitals, forming the economic backbone of the country.
As of 2013, India has a total of 70,934 km of National Highways, of which 1,208
km are classified as expressways.
During UPA-II in 2013 estimates, the total road length in
India is 4,689,842 km (2,914,133 mi); making the Indian road network the second
largest road network in the world after the United States. At 0.66 km of
highway per square kilometer of land the density of India’s highway network is
higher than that of the United States (0.65) and far higher than that of China’s (0.16) or Brazil’s (0.20)
For the development of National Highways in country the great
young leader of the Congress Party and the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv
Gandhi created NHAI. Through the promulgation of the National Highways
Authority of India Act, 1988. In February 1995 during the tenure of the then
Prime Minister Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao the authority was formally made an
autonomous body. It is responsible for the development, maintenance and
management of National Highways, totaling over 92,851.05 km in length. The NHAI
is also responsible of the toll collection on several highways.
As per the National Highways Authority of India, about 65%of
freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads. The National
Highways carry about 40% of total road traffic, because of the development of
good roads by the Congress government. Average growth of the number of vehicles
has been around 10.16% per annum over recent years. Highways have facilitated
development along the route and many towns have sprung up along major highways.
Veteran and visionary Congress leader and the Prime Minister
of India Shri Rajiv Gandhi is also remembered for his new initiatives. While he
was in chair Inland Waterways Authority of India was created by Government of
India on27 October, 1986 for development and regulation of Inland waterways for
shipping and navigation. The Authority primarily undertakes projects for
development and maintenance of Inland Waterway Terminal infrastructure on
National Waterways through grant received from Ministry of Shipping, Road
Transport and Highways. The head office is at Noida. The authority also has its
regional offices at Patna, Kolkata, Guwahati and Kochi and sub-office at
Allahabad, Varanasi, Bhagalpur Farrakka and Kollam.
The then Prime Minister of India Shri Rajiv Gandhi realized
that India has an extensive network of inland waterways in the form of rivers,
canals, backwaters and creeks. The total navigable length is 14,500 km, out of
which about 5200 km of the river and 4000 km of canals can be used by
Freight transportation by waterways is highly under-utilized
in India compared to other large countries and geographic areas like the United
States, China and the European Union. After the initiatives of the Congress
governments, Cargo transportation in an organized manner, has started to the
waterways in Goa, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.
In the colonial era, Air services started on a very small
scale and in October, 1932 famous industrialist of India J.R.D. Tata also
started his participation in this sector. But it was India’s first Prime
Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru Under whose guidelines the Congress
government started aviation sector as an organize done on the initiatives taken
by the Congress government in March 1953, the Indian Parliament passed the Air Corporations
Act. India’s airline industry was nationalized and the eight domestic airlines
operating independently at that time, Deccan Airways, Airways India, Bharat
Airways, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga Airlines, Indian National Airways, Air
India and Air Services of India were merged into two government owned entities.
Indian Airlines focused on domestic routes and Air India International on
In aviation sector, the Congress government continued
improvements, the International Airports Authority of India(IAAI) was
constituted in 1972 by the then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi led Congress
government. While the National Airports Authority was constituted in 1986 the
then Congress government under the supervision of the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi. The Bureau of Civil
Aviation Security was established in 1987 following the tragic crash of Air
East-West Airlines was the first national level private
airline to operate in the country after the Congress government led by the then
Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh de-regularized the
civil aviation sector in 1991. The government allowed private airlines to
operate charter and non-scheduled services under the ‘Air Taxi’ Scheme until
1994,when the Air Corporation Act was repealed and private airlines could now
operate scheduled services. Private airlines like Jet Airways, Air Sahara,
Modiluft, Damania Airways and NEPC Airlines among others commenced domestic
operations during this period.
More than haft a dozen low cost carriers entered in the Indian
aviation market 2004-05 Air India is India’s national flag carrier after
merging with Indian (airline) in 2011and plays a major role in connecting India
with the rest of the world. IndiGo, JetAirways, Air India, Spicejet and GoAir
are the major carriers in order of their market share. These airlines connect
more than80 cities across India and also operate overseas routes after the
liberalization of Indian aviation. Several other foreign airlines connect
Indian cities with other major cities across the globe. The Mumbai-Delhi air
corridor was ranked 10th by Amadeus in2012 among the world’s busiest routes.
This was because of the vision of the Congress party leaders
and the policies of the Congress governments that India is the fourth largest
civil aviation market in the world having a potential of becoming third largest
aviation market by 2020. It recorded air traffic of 131 million passengers in
2016, of which 100 million were domestic passengers. This article makes it
quite clear that the development in transport in India is a saga of the vision
of the Congress party and the policies made by the Congress government.