The development of transport in India is a saga and the vision of the Congress party

Cs logo Tue, 16 May 2017

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 in 2009.

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 mechanized crafts.

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 international services.

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 India Flight182.

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.