India election 2019: Are three times more roads being built?

By Salman Ravi
BBC Reality Check

  • Published
Quote card of PM Modi

In April 2018, India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said his government was building more roads than ever.

"Today, the volume of work that is being done every day is three times what was done previously," he said.

India has one of the largest road networks in the world, covering a total of 5.5 million km (3.4 million miles).

In the run-up to the Indian election, which gets under way on 11 April, BBC Reality Check is examining claims and pledges made by the main political parties.

Claim: The current government says it is building three times as many roads in India, compared with previous governments.

Verdict: Road-building has gone up significantly under this government, although not as much as Mr Modi has claimed.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A recently opened stretch of highway in Delhi

Road infrastructure in India is divided into three categories:

  • national highways
  • state highways
  • rural roads

At independence in 1947 the total length of national highways in India - the main routes that cross the country - was around 21,000km.

By 2018, it had gone up to almost 130,000km.

National highways are funded and constructed by the government, in Delhi, and state highways by state governments across India.

Rural roads come under the Ministry of Rural Development, in Delhi.

Read more from Reality Check

Construction rate rises

Official government data for the past decade shows the total length of highways built each year increased sharply after 2014, when the BJP came to power.

In its last year in office, in 2013-14, the previous Congress-led government built 4,260km of national highway.

In 2017-18, the current BJP government built a total of 9,829km of highway - more than double but not as much as three times the 2013-14 figure.

National highways in India. Total built each  fiscal year. Bar chart of total length of national highway built annually .

In a December 2018 review, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said more than 300 government highway projects would be completed by the end of 2019.

The present government has also set aside increasing amounts in the budget each financial year for developing national highways.

Budget allocated to highways. Billions of Indian rupees.  .

The Highways and Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari, has said roads and highways are "a country's assets".

Rural road building

Plans for extending roads in rural areas are not new - in fact, they date back to a previous BJP-led government in 2000.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The BJP claimed that construction of rural roads reached an all-time high in 2016-2017

In May last year, the current BJP government said more than 47,000km of rural roads had been constructed in the financial year 2016-17.

"Construction of rural roads reached an all-time high in 2016-17, under the Modi government," it said.

However, official data for the past decade shows that 2009-10 saw an even higher length of rural roads built - 60,117km.

And this was when a Congress-led government was in power.

Rural roads built in India. In km per fiscal year.  .

Since the BJP came to power, the budget for rural roads has increased every financial year - to expand the network to less accessible areas.

And the World Bank, which has been helping finance rural road building since 2004, said, in a report issued in December 2018, that progress had been "highly satisfactory".