India’s highway to competitiveness

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Goddess versus man, superstition versus progress, the people versus the state - mile by mile, India is struggling to modernize its national highway system, and in the process, itself.

So starts Amy Waldman’s NY Times article on India’s ambitious multi-billion dollar initiative to pave and improve over 40,000 miles of national highways. The article looks back at the history of India’s industrialization, the progress of the highway project, and what its development might mean to India’s future. She touches upon the many challenges to implementing the project, from jumping the necessary bureaucratic loops and acquiring lands to navigating religion and protected trees.

The fact remains that poor roads are a huge bottleneck to firm efficiency and the delivery of basic services in most developing countries, not just India. Lets hope that an improved network of highways will be able to increase India’s competitiveness and fuel continued growth:

For a nation inured to inefficiency, the improved interstate saves time - for Kailash Pandey, a milk-seller, one-third off a 90-minute commute to market; for Imtiaz Ali, 15, half off the bike ride to school; and half off the travel time for Sarjeet Singh, a trucker. These micro gains make for macro benefit: some $1.5 billion a year in savings, by one World Bank estimate, on everything from fuel costs to faster freight delivery.

Online interactive photo-essay also available.

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