Transport and Communication in India

India has one of the largest road networks in the world with a total length of 33.1 lakh km (2005). For the purpose of construction and maintenance, roads are classified as National Highways (NH), State Highways(SH), Major District Roads and Rural Roads. Around 70 per cent of freight traffic are carried by roads every year. Road transport is relatively suitable for shorter distance travel. Road transport in modern sense was very limited in India before World War-II. The first serious attempt was made in 1943 when ‘Nagpur Plan’ was drawn. This plan could not be implemented due to lack of coordination among the princely states and British India.

Sher Shah Suri built the Shahi (Royal) road to strengthen and consolidate his empire from the Indus Valley to the Sonar Valley in Bengal. This road was renamed the Grand Trunk (GT) road during the British period, connecting Calcutta and Peshawar. At present, it extends from Amritsar to Kolkata. It is bifurcated into 2 segments : (a) National Highway(NH)-1 from Delhi to Amritsar, and (b) NH- 2 from Delhi to Kolkata.

National Highways
The main roads which are constructed and maintained by the Central Government are known as the National Highways. These roads are meant for inter-state transport and movement of defence men and material in strategic areas. These also connect the state capitals, major cities, important ports, railway junctions, etc. The National Highways constitute only two per cent of the total road length but carry 40 per cent of the road traffic.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was operationalised in 1995. It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Surface Transport. It is entrusted with the responsibility of development, maintenance and operation of National Highways. This is also the apex body to improve the quality of the roads designated as National Highways.

Golden Quadrilateral : It comprises construction of 5,846 km long 4/6 lane, high density traffic corridor, to connect India’s four big metro cities of Delhi-Mumbai-Chennai- Kolkata. With the construction of Golden Quadrilateral, the time- distance and cost of movement among the mega cities of India will be considerably minimised.

North-South and East-West Corridors : North-South corridor aims at connecting Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir with Kaniyakumari in Tamil Nadu (including Kochi-Salem Spur) with 4,076 km long road. The East-West Corridor has been planned to connect Silchar in Assam with the port town of Porbandar in Gujarat with 3,640 km of road length.

Rural Roads : These roads are vital for providing links in the rural areas. About 80 per cent of the total road length in India are categorised as rural roads.

State Highways : These are constructed and maintained by state governments. They join the state capitals with district headquarters and other important towns. These roads are connected to the National Highways. These constitute 4 per cent of total road length in the country.

District Roads : These roads are the connecting link between District Headquarters and the other important nodes in the district. They account for 14 per cent of the total road length of the country.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna
Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched on 25th December 2000 as a fully funded Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide all weather road connectivity in rural areas of the country. The programme envisages connecting all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the plain areas and 250 persons and above in hill States, the tribal and the desert areas.

Bharat Nirman
In 2005, Govt announced a major business plan for rebuilding rural India called Bharat Nirman. The Finance Minister, in his Budget Speech of 28th February, 2005, identified Rural Roads as one of the six components of Bharat Nirman and has set a goal to provide connectivity to all habitations with a population of 1000 persons and above (500 persons and above in the case of hilly or tribal areas) with an all-weather road. A total of 59564 habitations are proposed to be provided new connectivity under Bharat Nirman. This would involve construction of 1,46,185 Kms of rural roads. In addition to new connectivity, Bharat Nirman envisages upgradation/renewal of 1,94,130 Kms of existing rural roads. This comprises 60% upgradation from Government of India and 40% renewal by the State Governments.

Border Road Organisation
The Border Road Organisation (BRO) was established in May 1960 for accelerating economic development and strengthening defence preparedness through rapid and coordinated improvement of strategically important roads along the northern and north-eastern boundary of the country. It is a premier multifaceted construction agency. It has constructed roads in high altitude mountainous terrain joining Chandigarh with Manali (Himachal Pradesh) and Leh (Ladakh). This road runs at an average altitude of 4,270 metres above the mean sea level. Apart from the construction and maintenance of roads in strategically sensitive areas, the BRO also undertakes snow clearance in high altitude areas. The international highways are meant to promote the harmonious relationship with the neighbouring countries by providing effective links with India.

The distribution of roads is not uniform in the country. Density of roads (length of roads per 100 square km of area) varies from only 10.48 km in Jammu and Kashmir to 387.24 km in Kerala with a national average of 75.42 km. Construction of roads is easy and cheaper in the plain areas while it is difficult and costly in hilly and plateau areas. Therefore, not only the density but also the quality of roads is relatively better in plains as compared to roads in high altitude areas, rainy and forested regions.

Rail Transport
Indian railways network is one of the longest in the world. It facilitates the movement of both freight and passengers and contributes to the growth of economy. Mahatma Gandhi said, the Indian railways “brought people of diverse cultures together to contribute to India’s freedom struggle.” Indian Railway was introduced in 1853, when a line was constructed from Bombay to Thane covering a distance of 34 km. Indian Railways is the largest government undertaking in the country. The length of Indian Railways network is 63,221 km. Its very large size puts lots of pressure on a centralised railway management system. Thus, in India, the railway system has been divided into sixteen zones.

On the basis of width of the track of Indian Railways, three categories have been made: Broad gauge: The distance between rails in broad gauge is 1.676 metre. Broad gauge lines accounts for 74.14 per cent of the total length of rail routes in the country.

Metre gauge: The distance between rails is one metre. It covers 21.02 per cent of the total route length.

Narrow gauge: The distance between the rails in this case is 0.762 metre or 0.610 metre. Nearly 4.94 per cent of the total length of the Indian Railways is narrow gauge. It is generally confined to hilly areas.

Indian Railways has launched extensive programme to convert the metre and narrow gauges to broad gauge. Moreover, steam engines have been replaced by diesel and electric engines. This step has increased the speed as well as the haulage capacity. The replacement of steam engines run by coal has also improved the environment of the stations.

Konkan Railway : One of the important achievements of Indian Railways has been the construction of Konkan Railway in 1998. It is 760 km long rail route connecting Roha in Maharashtra to Mangalore in Karnataka. It is considered an engineering marvel. It crosses 146 rivers, streams, nearly 2000 bridges and 91 tunnels. Asia’s largest tunnel which is nearly 6.5 km long, also lies on this route. The states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka are partners in this undertaking.

Water Transport
Waterways is an important mode of transport for both passenger and cargo traffic in India. It is the cheapest means of transport and is most suitable for carrying heavy and bulky material. It is a fuel-efficient and eco-friendly mode of transport. The water transport is of two types– (a) inland waterways, and (b) oceanic waterways.

Inland Waterways
It was the chief mode of transport before the advent of railways. It, however, faced tough competition from road and railway transport. Moreover, diversion of river water for irrigation purposes made them non navigable in large parts of their courses. India has 14,500 km of navigable waterways, contributing about 1% to the country’s transportation. It comprises rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc.

For the development, maintenance and regulation of national waterways in the country, the Inland Waterways Authority was set up in 1986. The authority has declared three inland waterways as National Waterways
1. NW1 - Allahabad Haidia stretch (1620km). It is one of the most important waterways in India, which is navigable by mechanical boats up to Patna and by ordinary boats up to Haridwar.
2. NW2 - Sadiya-Dhubri stretch (891 km). Brahmaputra is navigable by steamers up to Dibrugarh (1,384 km) which is shared by India and Bangladesh.
3. NW3 - Kottapuram-Kollam stretch (205 km). It includes 168 km of west coast canal along with Champakara canal (23 km) and Udyogmandal canal (14 km).

Oceanic Routes
India has a vast coastline of approximate 7,517 km, including islands. Twelve major and 185 minor ports provide infrastructural support to these routes. Oceanic routes play an important role in the transport sector of India’s economy. Approximately 95 per cent of India’s foreign trade by volume and 70 per cent by value moves through ocean routes. Apart from international trade, these are also used for the purpose of transportation between the islands and the rest of the country.

Air Transportation
Air transport is the fastest means of movement from one place to the other. It has reduced distances by minimising the travel time. It is very essential for a vast country like India, where distances are large and the terrain and climatic conditions are diverse. Air transport in India made a beginning in 1911 when airmail operation commenced over a little distance of 10 km between Allahabad and Naini. But its real development took place in post-Independent period. The Airport Authority of India is responsible for providing safe, efficient air traffic and aeronautical communication services in the Indian Air Space. The authority manages 126 airports including 11 international, 86 domestic and 29 civil enclaves at defence air fields. The air transport in India is managed by two corporations, Air India and Indian Airlines after nationalisation. Now many private companies have also started passenger services.

History of Indian Airlines
1911 – Air transport in India was launched between Allahabad and Naini.
1947 – Air transport was provided by four major companies namely Indian National Airways, Tata Sons Limited, Air Services of India and Deccan Airways.
1951 – Four more companies joined the services, Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation Limited, Airways India and Kalinga Airlines.
1953 – Air transport was nationalised and two Corporations, Air India International and Indian Airlines were formed. Now Indian Airlines is known as ‘Indian’.

The country’s largest state-owned domestic carrier, Indian Airlines dropped the word ‘Airlines’ from its name and is known as ‘Indian’ w.e.f. December 8, 2005. The new brand name ‘Indian’ now appears on both sides of the fuselage. The logo on the orange tail depicting ‘IA’ has also been changed. It has been replaced by a new logo which is a partly visible blue wheel and is inspired by the Sun Temple at Konark (Orissa), symbolising timeless motion, convergence and divergence. It also embodies strength as well as trust that has stood the test of time.

Open Sky Policy
To help the Indian exporters and make their export more competitive, the government had introduced an Open Sky Policy for cargo in April 1992. Under this policy, foreign airlines or association of exporters can bring any freighters to the country.

Oil and Gas Pipelines
Pipelines are the most convenient and efficient mode of transporting liquids and gases over long distances. Even solids can also be transported by pipelines after converting them into slurry.

Oil India Limited (OIL) under the administrative set up of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is engaged in the exploration, production and transportation of crude oil and natural gas. It was incorporated in 1959 as a company. Asia's first cross-country Pipeline is owned and operated by Oil India. This 1157 KM long pipeline traverses through three states, viz. Assam, West Bengal and Bihar, is the lifeline of the North-East as it carries the crude oil, which is very vital for the survival of the four Refineries in the region.

Communication Networks
Radio : Radio broadcasting started in India in 1923 by the Radio Club of Bombay. Since then, it gained immense popularity and changed the sociocultural life of people. Within no time, it made a place in every household of the country. Government took this opportunity and brought this popular mode of communication under its control in 1930 under the Indian Broadcasting System. It was changed to All India Radio in 1936 and to Akashwani in 1957.

Television : Television broadcasting has emerged as the most effective audio-visual medium for disseminating information and educating masses. Initially, the T.V. services were limited only to the National Capital where it began in 1959. After 1972, several other centres became operational. In 1976, TV was delinked from All India Radio (AIR) and got a separate identity as Doordarshan (DD). After INSAT-IA (National Television-DD1) became operational, Common National Programmes (CNP) were started for the entire network and its services were extended to the backward and remote rural areas.

Satellite Communication
satellite system in India can be grouped into two: Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) and Indian Remote Sensing Satellite System (IRS). The INSAT, which was established in 1983,is a multipurpose satellite system for telecommunication, meteorological observation and for various other data and programmes. The IRS satellite system became operational with the launching of IRS-IA in March 1988 from Vaikanour in Russia. India has also developed her own Launching Vehicle PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). These satellites collect data in several spectral bands and transmit them to the ground stations for various uses. The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) at Hyderabad provides facilities for acquisition of data and its processing. These are very useful in the management of natural resources.