Haryana’s highways and expressways have not been in the news for the right reasons lately.
The Kundli-Manesar-Palwal expressway (also called the Western Peripheral Expressway which bypasses Delhi) has become a favourite spot for the protesting farmers of Punjab and Haryana to show their strength, with tractor marches and shutting down of the toll plaza.
Everyone has heard of the Singhu and Tikri borders, twin sites which farmers have occupied for over 100 days now.
These points lie on the Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Sirsa national highways — two of the most important road links in the State.
The prevailing precarious situation in and around New Delhi has sparked debates among a section of nationalists on the wisdom of spending massive amounts of limited public resources on building such critical infra projects in this national capital region which has only helped facilitate anarchist elements reach Delhi faster, choking its communication networks, thereby putting more pressure on the Centre to agree to their irrational demands.
Obviously such debates are futile, for the protests are temporary (and so are the losses inflicted due to them), but the benefits accrued to the economy are huge in the long run.
On the limited point of farmers, more and better roads will only hasten the industrialisation of the States, which in turn make people shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial and service-based one.
In a way, the present spending on infra should be viewed as an investment by the Indian state to make agrarian revolts unviable in future.
Haryana already had the highest density distribution of national highways in the country in early 2019 — 71.6 km per 1,000 sq km (if we exclude Union Territories of Delhi, Chandigarh, Daman And Diu, and small States like Goa, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura).
This increased to over 75 km last year and will ratchet up further as the ongoing projects get completed by 2024.
Haryana has benefited greatly from ‘the twin engines of development’ model as Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls it, which means having governments of same parties or coalition at the State and the Centre.
That has been the case since 1991 — for 30 straight years.
It has also gained immensely from close proximity to New Delhi, which fuelled the rise of Faridabad and Gurgaon in the south and Sonipat in the north.
The industrialisation and urbanisation in districts along the Yamuna river in Haryana could be majorly attributed to the Grand Trunk Road (or the Sher Shah Suri marg or NH1) connecting Delhi to Chandigarh.
Haryana government and the Centre are now in the process of converting this already excellent highway into an eight lane access controlled expressway between Delhi and Panipat.
In the recent past, Sonipat-Rohtak-Jhajjar-Gurgaon belt which was once considered one of the most backward, saw prosperity after Bhupinder Singh Hooda became chief minister.
And that happened in no small part because of the highways he constructed — most famous being the national highway connecting Rewari-Jhajjar-Rohtak-Gohana-Panipat.
Rohtak and Bahadurgarh got major bypasses and both cities were connected with a six-lane highway. Jhajjar-Gurgaon road was also widened to four lanes with major sale of over 1,200 acres to Reliance a decade-and -a-half ago to build a special economic zone along this stretch, which didn’t materialise.
However, many companies are now setting up shop here after buying land from Reliance.
For all the road-building Hooda did, his concentration didn’t move far from the extent of Rohtak-Sonipat Lok Sabha constituencies and it became a joke in the State that you can tell by the condition of roads when you have exited Hooda’s bastion.
Six months after Modi’s thumping victory in 2014, Haryana’s voters gave a full majority to the BJP in the State as well — for the first time in history. And Haryana again gained from the twin engine system — more so this time, as the Modi government gave unprecedented attention to building highways and expressways.
The long pending six-lane KMP expressway was completed before the 2019 general election as was the Western Peripheral Expressway.
These two meet at Sonipat in the north and Palwal in the south. While aimed at decongesting Delhi, they have benefited the farmers in NCR belt of Haryana the most by making millionaires out of them.
The people living in villages and towns adjoining the expressway are the biggest beneficiaries, not only because of the road connectivity but also due to rapid industrialisation that is bound to take place in coming years.
Jhajjar-Sonipat stretch which remained in pathetic condition despite Hooda’s decade long rule, has been completed only under the Modi government.
This is only one small stretch of a long four-lane national highway which will connect Uttar Pradesh’s Baghpat to Haryana’s border with Rajasthan at Loharu via Jhajjar and Dadri.
Southern Haryana, which has remained one of the most poor parts in the State, due to the political culture of chief ministers developing their own bastions, is now being connected via highways and expressways like never before.
The State government is constructing the Trans Haryana expressway (National Highway 152D) which will connect Narnaul in the south to Ambala district in the north, passing through Kaithal, Jind, Meham, Bhiwani, Dadri and Mahendragarh — areas hitherto notorious for terrible road connectivity.
Parts of southern Haryana will also benefit from Jalandhar-Ajmer expressway. Its connectivity with NCR is set to drastically improve further after completion of Gurgaon-Pataudi-Rewari-Ateli national highway.
Then there is the eight-lane Delhi-Mumbai expressway, 80 km of which also passes through southern Haryana.
Another region which has historically been lacking in road infrastructure is the Chautala bastion which spans parts of Sirsa, Hisar, Jind, Kaithal and Bhiwani — mainly western and north-west Haryana.
It’s set to get a big boost. Eight-lane Delhi-Amritsar Katra expressway will do wonders for these parts as it will pass through Jind and Kaithal districts.
It will meet the Trans Haryana expressway near Uchana assembly constituency represented by Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala.
In the BJP’s first term, a national highway connecting Jind to Punjab border was already widened to four lanes. Now, construction is underway for a four-lane national highway connecting Jind to Sonipat via Gohana.
While this may seem as if the Centre is bestowing Chautala’s bastion with road projects as a quid pro quo for his support to the Manohar Lal Khattar government, which he has continued despite immense pressure from his own base to severe ties over the three farm laws, the fact is most of these projects are part of Centre’s Bharatmala project and would’ve been awarded irrespective of whether his party JJP was in alliance with the BJP.
However, the latest expressway announced by CM Khattar in his latest budget on 12 March could possibly be attributed to Chautala.
The newest expressway in the State will connect Punjab in the west to Uttar Pradesh in the east and pass through Panipat-Safidon-Naguran-Uchana-Parbhuwala-Bhuna-Ratia-Sardulgarh-Kalanwali-Mandi Dabwali — areas where most of Chautala’s voters are.
Notably, he represents Uchana and the family hails from Chautala village in Dabwali. This can be called an out and out Chautala pet project.
Once completed, these roads will pave the path to more prosperity for this landlocked State which already has the highest per capita GDP (after excluding Delhi, Goa, Sikkim and Chandigarh) in the country.
As it moves towards industrialisation and a service-based economy, the potential to foment caste and agrarian revolts will wane. One hopes that Punjab, Haryana’s now younger brother economically, will also learn from this example and move away from politics of doles and disastrous populism.
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