India has one of the largest road networks in the world, with a total length of 54.8 lakh km (Economic Survey 2016-17). Around 85% of passenger and 70% of freight traffic are carried by roads every year.
Road transport, in the 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.
After Independence, twenty-year road plan (1961) was introduced to improve the conditions of roads in India. However, the early efforts to construct roads tended to concentrate in and around urban centres. Rural and remote areas had the least connectivity by road.
For the purpose of construction and maintenance, roads are classified as:
•These are the main roads constructed and maintained by the Central Government.
•These are meant for inter-state transport and movement of defence men and material in strategic areas.
•These roads also connect the state capitals, major cities, important ports, railway junctions, etc.
•Highways constitute only 2% of the total road length but carry 40% of the road traffic.
•The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), set up in 1995, is the apex body to improve the quality of the roads designated as National Highways.
•These are constructed and maintained by the State Governments.
•They join the state capitals with district headquarters and other important towns.
•These roads are constructed to the National Highways and constitute 4% of the total road length in the country.
•These roads are the connecting link between District Headquarters and the other important nodes of the district.
•They account for 14% of the total road length of the country.
•These roads are vital for providing links in rural areas.
•About 80% of the total road length in India are categorised as rural roads.
•There is regional variation in the density of rural roads because these are influenced by the nature of the terrain.
•These include Border Roads and International Highways.
•The Border Road Organisation (BRO) was established in May 1960 for accelerating economic development and strengthening defence preparedness through the rapid and coordinated improvement of strategically important roads along the northern and north-eastern boundary of India.
•The International Highways are meant to promote the harmonious relationship with the neighbouring countries by providing effective links with India.
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