Insights into Editorial: Liquor drives State Highways to turn local
From April 1, the sale of alcohol has been banned along national highways in India, following a Supreme Court order directing states to revoke commercial liquor licences. The move is expected to severely hit liquor and wine shops to tourist establishments, as well as hundreds of local bars and pubs in several metros.
- Late last year, the Supreme Court passed an order banning the sale of alcohol along national and state highways, ordering the cancellation of liquor licences issued to shops by April 1, 2017.
- The order states that no liquor stores should be even visible from highways, or located within a distance of 500 metres of the highways, or be directly accessible from a national or state highway.
- The order has been subsequently modified to exempt establishments within 220 metres of the highways for smaller towns and municipalities with a population of less than 20,000 people.
Significance of this ban:
The order reaffirms a policy decision of the union government that goes back more than 10 years. In 2004, the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) unanimously agreed that licences for liquor shops should not to be given along the national highways, and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has “consistently” advised state governments not to issue fresh licences and remove liquor shops from national highways.
Why the ban?
- The order is aimed at tackling the rising menace of drunk driving as well as improving road safety conditions in India. The court cited “alarming” statistics showing drunk driving-related accidents and deaths, and said the order is in “overwhelming public interest.”
- Citing data from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the Supreme Court noted that in 2015, intake of alcohol or drugs by drivers resulted in 16,298 road accidents (4.2% of total accidents) and 6,755 fatalities (6.4% of total accidents) where drivers were at fault.
- The court also said data showing low incidence of drunk driving often tends to be skewed and “under-reported” as a cause of accidents, as that can affect the claims of victims or their heirs to accident compensation.
Implications of this move:
- Needless to say such closures will lead to enormous losses to business and tourism, which will translate into jobs lost as well as huge revenue losses for state governments which could have been spent on people’s welfare.
- The uncertainty of India’s business climate will deter investment from coming to India. And given the number of livelihoods at stake it’s more than likely that illegal liquor vends will proliferate along highways, leading to bigger risks to public safety.
- For example, the excise collection from liquor, which undergoes high “sin” taxes, helps prop up state revenues, which in Tamil Nadu’s case, where liquor sale is a state monopoly, is as much as Rs 26,000 crores annually, and offsets the high cost of freebies and other state-run social programmes.
- According to early estimates, states and hospitality companies could see a loss of Rs 65,000 crores, and as many as 1 million jobs could go as a result of the ban.
The move was expected to severely hit liquor and wine shops to tourist establishments, as well as hundreds of local bars and pubs in several metros. However, some states are coming up with alternative plans to circumvent the idea. How?
- Some States are now re-classifying State Highways into local roads. The Rajasthan government passed an order recently to convert a portion of their State Highway roads passing through populous areas into urban and district roads.
- Similarly, the Chandigarh administration issued a notification on March 16 to convert a significant portion of its State Highways into major district roads (MDRs).
- The State government can issue a notification to convert State Highways into district roads. However, the de-notification of national highways can only be affected by the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry.
- The implications of converting National Highways into State Highways would certainly be significant. The maintenance responsibility in such cases will shift to the States, which lack the capacity in some cases, compared to Central authorities.
What is the need of the hour?
Policing should improve on highways to tackle drunken driving. State governments should be directed to allocate more resources for this purpose. Only constant checking of drivers and punishment for offenders can deter those who drink and drive.
Other issues associated with this move:
- Why ban only liquor shops and exempt bars that serve wine, whisky, brandy, etc, which contain 15 to 50% alcohol? Any alcohol, when drunk in sufficient quantity, blurs judgement and dulls reflexes. Hence, all opportunities for drinking must be removed from the highways.
- If alcohol is harmful on the roads, is it safe elsewhere? Is alcohol an innocent drink? WHO attributes 200 types of diseases to alcohol with an estimated annual 3.3 million deaths globally, and a loss of a total of 140 million life-years. Alcohol kills more people than HIV.
- But why fuss about people occasionally indulging in a peg or two? According to the WHO Statistical Report 2015, the annual per adult consumption of absolute alcohol in India is four litres — about 400-500 drinks per year. As only 20% of adults in India drink, their per head annual consumption is 2,500 to 3,000 drinks. Think about the impact on those who consume alcohol, and those around them.
- What about the individual’s freedom of choice to drink? Yes, but what makes this free choice? The brain. Alcohol influences the brain and compromises its ability to make a reasoned choice. After the first drink, it is alcohol which is dictating choice, not the brain. In the case of alcohol, the idea of free choice is a myth. Alcohol takes away our ability and, thereby our freedom, to make a choice. Abstaining from alcohol protects our freedom of choice.
- The issue is not simply the freedom of choice of drinkers; it is also the freedom of life, safety and dignity, of family income and the productivity of other people. Hence, the issue is in the realm of social policy. Regarding prohibition, the obligation of the state is enshrined in the constitution of India.
Following the ban, several individual and state applications have filed appeals against the ban. However as of March 31, only eight states had moved the court. The Supreme Court has said it will continue to hear appeals against the order.
Many states including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, and Maharashtra have reportedly asked the central government to reclassify some highways or highway stretches as urban roads to bypass the order. Many states that rely on tourism contend that it will affect revenues and tourism industry.
The Supreme Court order banning establishments selling alcohol along all state and national highways is a classic case of good intentions missing the mark. The apex court directive is certainly well meant. It stems from the desire to curb drunken driving that kills thousands of people each year on our highways. But a blanket ban on all liquor outlets is a sweeping and radical measure, throwing out the baby with the bath water. While the move’s impact on drunken driving is likely to be marginal, the ban puts thousands of valid businesses employing lakhs of people at risk.
Blanket bans and prohibition-like decrees, whether from judiciary or legislature, only make the problem worse. In this case they will injure the economy and cripple the tourism industry – which happens to be the sector that produces the most jobs per rupee invested. The apex court must reconsider its decision.
This article is about national highways. For expressways, see Expressways in India.
The national highways network of India is a network of trunk roads that is managed and maintained by agencies of the Government of India.[clarification needed] These highways as of June 2017 measure over 115,435 km (71,728 mi). Indian government led by PM Modi has vowed to double the highway length from 96,000 to 2,00,000 km.
As of June 2017, 23 km per day of highway construction has been achieved which is unprecedented in Indian history.
In India, National Highways are at-grade roads whereas Express Highways, commonly known as Expressways, are controlled-access highways, mostly six-lane or above, where entrance and exit is controlled by the use of slip roads (ramps) that are incorporated into the design of the highway. The at-grade national highways do not have shoulder lanes.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is the nodal agency responsible for building, upgrading and maintaining most of the national highways network. It operates under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The National Highways Development Project (NHDP) is a major effort to expand and upgrade the network of highways. NHAI often uses a public-private partnership model for highway development, maintenance and toll-collection.
While national highways constitute 1.8% of Indian roads, they carry 40% of the traffic. The majority of existing national highways are two-lane roads (one lane in each direction), though much of this is being expanded to four-lanes and some to six or more lanes. Some sections of the network are toll roads.
Bharatmala, a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project of the Government of India with a target of constructing 83,677 km (51,994 mi) of new highways at an estimated cost of ₹5.35 trillion (US$82 billion) has been started in 2017. Bharatmala Phase -I plans to construct 34,800 km of highways (including remaining projects under NHDP) at an estimated cost of Rs.5,35,000 crore by 2021-22.
Main articles: List of National Highways in India by State and List of National Highways in India by highway number
India has 101,011 km (62,765 mi) of national highways (NH) connecting all the major cities and state capitals as of March 2016.
 National highways comprise 1.7% of India's total road network, but carry about 40% of road traffic. Most of them have two lanes. About 26,000 km (16,000 mi) have been widened to four lanes with two lanes in each direction as of May 2016. Only a few national highways are built with cement concrete. As of March 2016, 20,703 km (12,864 mi) of national highways were still single-laned roads.
India has the distinction of having the world's second highest-altitude motor highway — Leh-Manali Highway, connecting Shimla to Leh in Ladakh, Kashmir.
National highways form the economic backbone of the country and have often facilitated development along their routes. Many new towns have sprung up along major highways. Highways have large numbers of small restaurants and inns (known as dhabas) along their length. They serve popular local cuisine and serve as truck stops.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India adopted a new systematic numbering of national highways in April 2010. The new system will indicate the direction of national highways whether it is east-west (odd numbers) or north-south (even numbers) and also the geographical region where they are, increasing from east to west and from north to south.
Under former Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee India launched a massive programme of highway upgrades, called the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), in which the main north-south and east-west corridors and highways connecting the four metropolitan cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata) have been fully paved and widened into four-lane highways. Some of the busier national highway sectors in India have been converted to four or six lane expressways — for example, Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Jaipur, Ahmedabad-Vadodara, Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Surat, Bangalore-Mysore, Bangalore-Chennai, Chennai-Tada, Delhi-MeerutHyderabad-Vijayawada, Bhubaneswar-Puri and Guntur-Vijayawada.
The National Highways Act, 1956 provides for private investment in the building and maintenance of the highways. Some existing roads have been reclassified as national highways. Bypasses have recently been constructed around larger towns and cities to provide uninterrupted passage for highway traffic. The hugely varied climatic, demographic, traffic, and sometimes political situation in India results in national highways being single lane in places with low traffic to six lanes in places with heavy traffic. National highways are being upgraded or are under construction. Some national highways are long while some are short spurs off other national highways to provide connectivity to nearby ports or harbours.
The length of national highways in the country was 29,023 km in 1980, which expanded to 76,818 km by the end of 2012. Over 50% of the total road network or 23,814 was added under the Vajpayee government between 1997 and 2002 — the largest construction of national highways during any five-year period since independence. The UPA government added 18,000 km of highway in its ten-year administration between 2004 and 2014.
The longest national highway is NH44, which runs between Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, at the southernmost point of the Indian mainland, covering a distance of 2,369 km (1,472 mi). The shortest national highway is NH966B, which spans 6 km (3.7 mi), to the Ernakulam-Kochi Port.
References and notes
- ^"Ministry of Road Transport and Highways". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
- ^"National Highways road length to be increased from 96,000 km to 2,00,000 km: Nitin Gadkari". The Financial Express. 17 December 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
- ^"Govt aimed to build 15,000 km of roads in 2016-17 but laid down only 8,200 km". hindustantimes.com/. 1 April 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
- ^"Indian road network". National Highways Authority of India. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
- ^"Bharat Mala: PM Narendra Modi's planned Rs 14,000 crore road from Gujarat to Mizoram", The Economic Times, New Delhi, 29 April 2015
- ^"Ministry proposes construction of 20,000 km of roads under Bharat Mala project", The Economic Times, New Delhi, 9 January 2016
- ^"Bharatmala Pariyojana - A Stepping Stone towards New India | National Portal of India". www.india.gov.in. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
- ^ abCite error: The named reference was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
- ^Mahapatra, Dhananjay (2 July 2013). "NDA regime constructed 50% of national highways laid in last 30 years: Centre". The Times of India. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
- ^"New numbers for national highways". The Times of India. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
- ^"The National Highways Act, 1956". Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- ^"NDA regime constructed 50% of national highways laid in last 30 years: Centre - The Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
- ^. Maps of India.
- ^"List of highways in Kerala". ListKerala.com.
- ^"National Highway 47A". India9.com.
- ^"National Highways Summary - Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India". morth.nic.in. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
- ^"Welcome to NHAI". www.nhai.org. Retrieved 21 August 2017.