The grand project, which includes three expressways, is largely being overseen by state road construction minister Nitin Nabin and industries minister Shahnawaz Hussain.
Bihar had once been infamous for its terrible physical infrastructure: cratered highways, rickety bridges and collapsing culverts. But that has been changing since the NDA came to power in the state.
Now, Bihar plans a network of expressways that is expected to put the state on the fast lane towards development and prosperity. The state’s road construction department, headed by the BJP’s Nitin Nabin, has embarked on the ambitious task of construction of three expressways that will connect major parts of the state and also provide a vital link to Kolkata.
The Union Government has already put its seat of approval on the 310-kilometer Amas to Darbhanga (via Patna) expressway (see map). “Land acquisition for this eight-lane expressway has already started and we will start construction from April next year,” Nabin told Swarajya.
Approval for another expressway from Raxaul to Kolkata via Patna (see map) is pending before the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) headed by the Prime Minister. Nabin said that the Union ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has already given the green signal to this mega project.
“Once the CCEA approval comes through, which I have been assured will happen soon, we will appoint a renowned consultant for preparing a detailed project report for this 640-kilometer expressway,” Nabin added.
Nabin will seek the MoRTH’s approval for the third expressway from Buxar to Bhagalpur (see map) with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari when he meets the latter in the first week of December. “I was scheduled to meet him (Gadkari) and discuss this 350-kilometer expressway in New Delhi this week, but that meeting got cancelled because Gadkari had to go to Jammu & Kashmir. The meeting has been rescheduled for the first week of December,” said Nabin.
The detailed proposal for the Buxar-Bhagalpur expressway has been chalked out and its proposed alignment has also been finalised. “We will propose to Gadkariji that this expressway be integrated with the Bharatmala Phase 2,” said Nabin.
The Amas-Darbhanga expressway has a largely north-south alignment and will connect Amas in south Bihar near the border with Jharkhand with Darbhanga in north Bihar. It will run through Aurangabad and Muzaffarpur.
“This expressway will boost movement of agricultural produce from north to south Bihar and give a fillip to trade in many other commodities. Since this expressway will touch Patna, transportation of horticultural produce meant for exports through Patna airport will become much easier. Also, agricultural produce and other products will gain easy market access to Patna. We have plans to set up manufacturing hubs in some areas that this xpressway will pass through,” a senior officer of the state industries and commerce department told Swarajya from Patna.
The Raxaul to Kolkata expressway via Patna will facilitate very swift movement of goods from North Bihar to Bengal. This expressway will be a boon for exporters in Nepal who will have very fast access to Kolkata and Haldia ports.
At present, it takes more than 24 hours to travel from Raxaul, which is situated on the Indo-Nepal border, to Kolkata through National Highway 28A which is in a pathetic condition. The proposed eight-lane expressway will cut journey time to just eight hours or even less.
“This expressway will boost trade with Nepal and be a Godsend for Nepal’s exporters and importers. It will also help transportation of agricultural and other produce from North and central Bihar to Bengal and allow agriculturists and manufacturers gain easy access to sea ports and markets in Bengal,” said Bihar industries minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Hussain, who has served in the Atal Behari Vajpayee cabinet and was the BJP national spokesperson earlier, has also been pushing for early approval of the Raxaul-Kolkata and Buxar-Bhagalpur expressways. His good contacts with Union ministers is helping Bihar push through these major proposals.
The 350-kilometer Buxar-Bhagalpur expressway has an east-west alignment and will connect Buxar in west Bihar bordering Uttar Pradesh to Bhagalpur in east Bihar near the Bihar-Bengal border. This expressway will boost inter and intra state and regional trade and commerce.
“Once the approvals come through, we will draw up plans for manufacturing, trading and logistics hubs along these expressways. The Raxaul-Kolkata expressway, especially, has huge potential,” said Hussain.
Hussain is working closely with Nabin to expedite central approvals for these two expressways. “The minister (Hussain) is also fine-tuning the blueprints of the proposed manufacturing and trading hubs along these expressways and these will be pitched to potential investors for setting up units in the proposed hubs,” said the industries department officer.
Once the Union government’s approvals for the two expressways (Raxaul-Kolkata and Buxar-Bhagalpur) come through and the land acquisition starts, Bihar will initiate an outreach to major investors.
“We may hold a big investors’ summit also to showcase these expressways and explain their potential. Manufacturers with units in the proposed hubs along or connected to these expressways will get fast and easy access to markets in the region and also overseas through the Kolkata and Haldia ports,” said the industries department officer.
Bihar’s potential as a manufacturing destination will receive a boost due to these expressways. Bihar has a lot of surplus non-agricultural land, is rich in mineral resources and manpower and boasts of a secure and affordable standard of living. This makes it an attractive investment destination with access to sea ports in Bengal where cumbersome and complicated land acquisition process has proved to be a major deterrent for investors.
“Land acquisition is easy in Bihar, unlike in West Bengal where it is next to impossible to acquire land (except in remote, inaccessible and hostile areas). Investors can thus set up units in Bihar where land, power, manpower and other inputs are easily available. The expressways will provide easy and fast access to markets in Bihar and beyond and also the sea ports in Bengal,” said the industries department officer.
The three expressways, say Hussain and Nabin, will change the lives of lakhs of people in the state for the better. “Once ready, the three expressways will facilitate direct and indirect employment to lakhs of people and will change the physical face of Bihar. These three expressways will unlock Bihar’s potential and put the state on the road to progress and prosperity,” said Hussain.
Nabin said that the three expressways, totalling over 1,300 kilometers, will be completed by 2025. “By the time Assembly polls are held in Bihar towards the end of 2025, these three expressways will be operational and we will showcase them to the people of Bihar. By that time, people will also start benefiting from the expressways,” said Nabin.
The state road construction department has already explored deployment of the latest technology for fast-paced construction of these expressways. “The constructions of these expressways will set benchmarks for road-construction projects in India. Speed of construction, strict adherence to quality and the highest safety standards and complete transparency as well as deployment of modern technology for easy monitoring of the projects will be the hallmarks. I will discuss these details also with Gadkariji and expect his approval,” said Nabin.
“The face of Bihar has changed a lot from the dark days of Lalu Yadav’s rule and once these expressways are ready, Bihar will be transformed completely and will become a front-ranking state in the country,” he said.