Citizens' Issues
Six problems with Indian highways and 11 ways to improve them

With almost 15 crore vehicles using national highways across India, a 10-minute idling per vehicle at toll booths and octroi posts result in a loss of about Rs1,272 crore everyday

I have always enjoyed driving, having learnt to drive at a young age of 12, with a pillow on the sofa seat of a Mark-I Ambassador way back in 1984.

In between the six cars that my dad and me have owned since 1984, I have covered almost 5 lakh plus kms on Indian roads, covering large parts of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. The trigger to this love for driving being a 1988 drive that my father did with a co-driver from Surat to Hoshiarpur in Punjab, in an Maruti 800, in two days flat , and the stories I heard from him.

Also having driven almost 2,000 miles in the US from New York to Washington, New York to Pennsylvania, and multiple short trips from New Jersey to Delaware and Atlantic city, and having being driven around In Japan and UK , I can contrast the experiences while driving long distances in India compared with the advanced world.

However, what triggered this article is the fact that, a promise to children in my family to treat them royally, post their 9+ CGPA scores made me plan a drive from Noida to Jaipur, Mount Abu and Udaipur, and the stark contrast in driving experiences within India. Some observations, and maybe with some luck this will reach the powers to be to ponder about the challenges and the resultant wastage in fuel, price rise, pollution, stress , wear and tear etc.

National Wastage:

A quick illustration of the wastage before I get down to the business of pointing out the issues and possible solutions:

Registered Vehicles in India as of 31st Mar 2012 * ( in crore)

Idling Cost p/min (in Rs) **

Total wastage per day @10 minutes of idling per vehicle





My Observations:

  1. 1) Vehicles wait on toll gates due to:
    a. Need of Exact Change for an absurd amount of Rs27 or Rs54 etc. (No One at NHAI heard about Rounding Off?)
    b. “Jaanta Nahin Mera Baap Kaun Hain?” the 'Special Status' arguments holding up traffic
    c. Malfunctioning systems
    d. Changeover of staff, taking two minutes to log off and log in as per the attendant and  balancing cash 
    e. Drivers chatting with attendants too
    f. Manual collection of tolls (Pilferage?) 
    2) Small undulations, imperfections on seemingly well laid roads where you need to brake suddenly while cruising at a speed of 80+, thus wasting precious fuel
    3) Potholes, rather Martian craters necessitating deliberate slowdowns, trying to find road to drive on, at roads which are between Highways and City limits (‘No Man’s Roads’)
    4) Lack of road sense and feeling of entitlement, plying in the middle of two lanes road holding up traffic, and upon asking for side, get a glare back.
    5) Wrong lane driving due to
    a. Missing U turns near a habitation
    b. Missing exits necessitating either long drives for exits or drive in wrong lanes
    c. Missing underpasses
    d. Bad road conditions
    6) Lack of sufficient signage well before the exits. Many a times exit signs are almost on EXIT, necessitating backing up, rather than taking the next exit (Indian trait)
    With almost 15 crore vehicles across India a 10-minute idling daily costs about Rs1,272 crore! 


There are almost 273 tolls as per the NHAI site. There are many other toll plazas in remote areas where toll is collected manually, with printed slips. To try and untangle the mess, we need to start from the toll plazas.

  1. Interlink all NHAI tolls enabling usage of a single smart card 'INDIA-Pass', which works across all toll plazas in the country

  2. Ensure that this smart card, named “INDIA-Pass” or 'i-Pass' is also compatible with metro services, trains and bus stations at a future date and time of choosing thereby encouraging widespread usage

  3. All private, state transport buses, and trucks ( almost one crore in numbers ) to necessarily have these smart cards to breeze through the toll plazas, without holding up traffic

  4. Incentivize smart card, tag users by lower toll fares as against cash payments

  5. Compulsory road survey of state and national highways every two months ,
    reporting any damages immediately and rectifying the same within a month

  6. Road projects to be given only to well known Infra companies, and be held responsible for certain minimum life of these roads

  7. Every road Project to have a sacrosanct deadline, with heavy penalties for non performance

  8. Road Ministry to work with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to get all relevant clearances. Roads projects should be declared as of National Importance brooking no opposition

  9. Use the latest polymer and concrete technologies as appropriate depending on terrain and weather, which may be costly initially but lower maintenance costs and longer life

  10. Enforce and check overloading of trucks, which damages the roads and reduces the life of roads

  11. Plan better roads, truck bays, parking for trucks before Toll Plazas or Octroi Posts so that heavy vehicles like trucks, buses do no spill over the roads blocking highways by hap hazard parkings

Finally the soul of any change for improvement of processes is the ease of compliance and cost of compliance. If we keep the cost of compliance low, and penalties exorbitant, I am sure we can make a change to the way the State and National Highways look and feel today.

(Amit Gupta is an Economics graduate and holds an Executive PG Diploma in International Business. He works as a Senior Manager for Strategy Consulting with a captive of an insurance MNC based in Noida)



Abhijit Gosavi

2 years ago

At long last, issues related to transportation infrastructure are getting highlighted in the media! This should have started a long time back. Of course, shoulda coulda woulda... but now the govt. must *accelerate* construction of four-lane highways and bullet train tracks --- to make up for the lost 15 years!


2 years ago

Well, not all vehicles enter a tollgate every day, in fact I would think a very small percentage end up going through a tollgate and idling, so your math is extremely flawed.

That said, I do agree with your points in general. I lived in US for 13 years, and with a limited amount of exposure to highways in India, I have experienced most of the bad things that you mention. On the infrastructure side, I drove on some highways that I was very satisfied with, except for the road manners of the drivers, but I presume more highways are not upto that level.

BTW, electronic passes will self-promote, once drivers see the difference in speed at which they can get through the tollgate, so you don't need a financial incentive. However, considering how the tolls are managed privately by possibly thousands of contractors (please correct me if I am wrong on this), having a single pass that would work across the country could be a long stretch.


Amit Gupta

In Reply to Hari 2 years ago

1) So not all vehicles go through toll roads sir, but have you imagined a 10 KM drive In Kanpur / Lucknow / Delhi / Bangalore / Surat / Kolkata /Pune?

Every 1 hour drive has an average 10 Minute wait, irrespective of the fact whether you come across a toll road or not .

2) Japan has such cards, Netherlands has such cards, What makes it so long a stretch in India ?


In Reply to Amit Gupta 2 years ago

Your article is talking about idling at tollgates, not the idling at signals and other sorts of jams at regular roads.

BTW, I forgot to mention another annoyance that I came across on highways, which is to find intersections. Highways should strictly avoid intersections. There are entries and exits for merging and then there are overpasses.

Sanjoy K Guha

2 years ago

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I do completely agree with your views especially the I pass.

Have lived in Europe and south East Asian countries - Vietnam and Singapore, it's quite difficult to understand why we cannot implement the toll on electronic platform. It not only allows transparency and 100% pilfer proof it provides much needed savings on energy.

On the quality of road , it's true there are number of good technical solutions where the roads or highways are maintenance free for almost 20 years. We need to encourage innovation and high tech in our all walks of life. Why should India be behind.

On the signage part, we need to follow common color code and follow the distance rule which allows drivers to be forewarned and navigate with ease.

Would like to touch on another aspect, where I found Europe to be quite progressive, the highway rest locations and support infrastructure, which allows tired drivers and families to rest.

Hope we will be able to make India as a preferred country for all to live and work comparable to best of the countries.



Amit Gupta

In Reply to Sanjoy K Guha 2 years ago

Thanks Sanjoy,

I agree the road side support infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired in India. May be with time, and ideas and demands from aware citizens like you , we will get there.

Gopalakrishnan T V

In Reply to Sanjoy K Guha 2 years ago

When everything is designed and programmed with collection of bribe directly and indirectly,nothing can be expected to improve so easily.India has all the brains but unfortunately crooked brains do contribute more and the entire society suffers.No doubt we have to keep on fighting and exposing all wrong things and wrong doers.Let us all keep our hopes alive to have a better life ahead.

Amit Gupta

In Reply to Gopalakrishnan T V 2 years ago

Dear Sir,

lets continue to do what we can to create awareness and support the good initiatives. Maybe we will make the change !


2 years ago

Good observations and valid suggestions,
1) Whether people in India actually even complain ........ manner? ONE WHO HAS NEVER EXPERIENCED GOOD SYSTEM, WILL NOT ASK FOR IT. IT IS LIKE METRO/ BULLET TRAINS/ IT FACILITY
2) Whether the present Central Government will be able to get State Governments to work together on resolving this?.....

The deeper reason is, ofcourse, that not too many people think about the benefit to society part of road transport, and choose to treat it as a revenue generator for short-term benefits and siphons?......
Unless India's Neta-Babu-Cop-Judge nexus .......


2 years ago

You could try sending a link to this article to the Chief Planning Engineer in the MoRT&H



Amit Gupta

In Reply to Java 2 years ago

Thanks For the inputs dear!
Sincerely appreciate .

I will try to reach out at the mentioned email.


2 years ago

Unless India's Neta-Babu-Cop-Judge nexus have to pay personally for these looses they will never care. Indian taxes, inflation and bribes keep them in a luxurious bubble immune to prices, escalating costs and the enormous dangers to Indian citizens in daily life. Cut their pay and perks to a point where they feel what their serfs feels, and you may see a difference.

Gopalakrishnan T V

2 years ago

All the concerns expressed are genuine. The fact remains that there is no professionalism in the laying of roads, in fixing the toll charges, in providing traffic signals and in giving driving licenses. Trucks are always found on the extreme right line and they take a sudden left and come in between two left racks if there are three lane tracks. Traffic Constables have no exposure to high way traffic rules and driving rules.The author would be heard if he has some high contacts and even then no action can be expected. There is no such arrangement in our system. Somehow go on grubling and survive or withdraw with all grace from fighting the system. The authorities have also visited all these countries and even more and they also know how the system works efficiently in various countries. If they introduce them, gradually the opening to get regular flow of funds from different quarters gets closed and their chances of vising abroad and enjoying worldly comforts and luxuries get dried up. Any way the author deserves appreciation for having brought out the issues which every driver in India experiences day in and day out.

Veeresh Malik

2 years ago

Good observations and valid suggestions, a lot will depend on-

1) Whether people in India actually even complain about these things in a cogent and documented manner.

2) Whether the present Central Government will be able to get State Governments to work together on resolving this, since road transport is a State subject.

The deeper reason is, ofcourse, that not too many people think about the benefit to society part of road transport, and choose to treat it as a revenue generator for short-term benefits and siphons.

Narendra Doshi

2 years ago

Well said Amitji.
I have travelled (NOT DRIVEN)say 5% of your record in States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Original Andhra, Pondicherry, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman, Chandigarh, Haryana, Punjab, Kerala in my last 40 odd years etc.and wish the concerned do improve and better up for a better than a world class in a short time.
Low cost and high penalties is the way to go this and many other daily disobediences in all aspects of our life.

ED slaps laundering case against ex-IAF chief Tyagi
The ED decided to slap a criminal case to track the 'illegal money' of the bribe, alleged to be over Rs360 crore, dealt between the middlemen and other people named by CBI

Stepping up the heat in the Rs3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday registered a money laundering case against SP Tyagi, the former chief of Indian Air Force (IAF) and others to probe proceeds of crime in the alleged kickbacks paid to procure the flying machines.
The ED, which earlier registered a case under foreign exchange laws in this deal, decided to slap a criminal case to track the "illegal money" of the bribe, alleged to be over Rs360 crore, dealt between the middlemen and other people named by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its first information report (FIR) in March 2013.
Taking cognisance of the more-than-a-year-old CBI complaint, the agency has booked Tyagi, his family members, European nationals Carlo Gerosa, Christian Michel and Guido Haschke and four companies -- Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix -- in its criminal complaint filed under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
A total of 13 entities have been named by ED in the case.
Sources said the agency will soon initiate the process of recording of statements of these people even as it dispatches Letters Rogatory (LRs), or judicial requests to a few European countries, including Italy, seeking their cooperation.
Sources said the agency has already zeroed in on some of the immovable and movable assets of the accused which will be attached under the provisions of the laundering laws.
In order to track the alleged "bribe money" in this deal, it was important for the agency to register a criminal case as that would be conducive for it to seek cooperation from other countries under existing treaties and tax information exchange protocols, the sources added.
The supply of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland came under the scanner after Italian authorities alleged that bribe was paid by the company to clinch the deal.
The Italian prosecutor who carried out the preliminary inquiry alleged that the CEO of Finmeccanica, the parent company of UK-based AgustaWestland, had used the services of middlemen to bribe Indian officials.


Stepping beyond his powers, state CIC appoints Pratibha Patil’s secretary as Pune IC
A State CIC has no powers to even sanction a 'casual leave' of any Information commissioner. However, Maharashtra SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad issued a transfer order to make Rajendra Jadhav, full time IC of Pune. Jadhav was the secretary to former president Pratibha Patil

Rajendra Jadhav was appointed by the Maharashtra Governor and has taken oath as Amravati’s Information Commissioner (IC) on 1 March 2014. First he was arbitrarily given additional charge as Pune’s Information Commissioner and now suddenly on 2nd July he has been appointed as Pune’s full time Information Commissioner by State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad. All this when the SCIC does not have the authority to even sanction a 'casual leave' for any IC, as the authority rests with the Governor.
Jadhav, who was secretary of former President of India Pratibha Patil, while she was serving in the highest constitutional post, seems to be curiously following her like a shadow, with the state government machinery 'illegally' supporting the cause.
How else would you explain the audacity of SCIC Gaikwad to appoint Jadhav as Pune’s Information Commissioner, under the garb of Section 15 (4) of the RTI Act? This rule states that the SCIC has the power to exercise his authority 'autonomously'.
Right to Information (RTI) activist, Vijay Kumbhar, who has taken up this issue with the Governor’s office by writing a formal complaint to him, with copies of the complaint also sent to the President of India and Prime Minister, explains that “the SCIC does not have to consult any other law enforcing or public authority to issue an order pertaining to the RTI Act, but when it comes to the appointment of Information Commissioners, Governor is the final authority. The SCIC has no authority to sanction even a casual leave of any IC; it is the Governor’s prerogative. Therefore, Gaikwad has no authority to merely send a 'CC' of his order to the Governor which he has done in the case of Jadhav.” (see box for the Section 15 (4) rule)
It is shocking that earlier complaints by Kumbhar to the Governor regarding such 'illegal' transfers by SCIC Gaikwad have been met with stoic silence. 
Girish Bapat, senior leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Pune has also expressed shock at Gaikwad’s 'style of functioning'. When Moneylife contacted him for this issue, he stated, “Earlier too I had formally complained to the Chief Secretary as well as to the Chief Minister. I have strong reservations regarding Gaikwad’s style of functioning. I am pursuing this recent case of Rajendra Jadhav with the highest authorities of the state.”
In fact, RTI activist Anil Galgali has also taken up the same 'transfer’ issue by Gaikwad in March this year. Since the post of IC is not transferrable, a high powered committee was set up, which made recommendations to the Governor. Thereafter, the Governor and not the SCIC made the (re) appointments. Galgali was quoted in a Moneylife article stating: "the RTI Act 2005, has no provision for transfer of State ICs (SIC). The power to appoint, or remove SICs are vested  the Governor. During 2007, Vilas Patil, the then SIC at Nagpur sought transfer to Nashik. A High Power Committee headed by the state Chief Minister (CM), with the deputy CM and leader of opposition as its members, recommended to the Governor the transfer of the SIC. The Governor sought opinion from the Ministry of Law and Advocate General of Maharashtra (AG). The AG pointed out that as per Section 15 of RTI Act, the Governor can appoint an SIC on recommendations from the High Power Committee. 
"After the AG's opinion, Vilas Patil first resigned as SIC at Nagpur, then the Committee recommended his name for appointment as SIC at Nashik. The Governor accepted the recommendation and issued order to appoint Vilas Patil as SIC at Nashik," Galgali said. (read Maharashtra SCIC illegally transferred three SICs? )
Also shocking is the fact that Jadhav has taken over the reigns as Information Commissioner, Pune Division, without even taking an official oath, which makes his appointment doubly illegal and dubious. His official oath, as per official record is that of being appointed as Amravati’s Information Commissioner. With a single order, Gaikwad has also transferred Pune’s Information Commissioner MB Shah to take over as Amravati’s Information Commissioner, when he resumes after his illness.
Kumbhar, in his strongly worded letter to the Governor has demanded the following:
1. Cancellation of  all orders of SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad wherein he has encroached on the Governor's authority 
2. To ask Ravindra Jadhav. who was appointed Amravati Information Commissioner on oath and has broken that oath by accepting to be Pune’s Information Commissioner on SCIC’s orders, to resign
3. To cancel Ratnakar Gaikwad’s order of appointing Ravindra Jadhav as Pune’s Information Commissioner as it is null and void
4. Once an information commissioner has been appointed, he cannot be re-appointed, hence Jadhav should not be appointed as Information Commissioner of Pune.
Moneylife had, on Wednesday, published the shocking article of how Rajendra Jadhav was sanctioned an official bungalow in a premier residential neighborhood of Pune Cantonment, despite his being Amravati’s Information Commissioner. Several deserving officers who are posted in Pune in various state government departments have to wait for a year or two before getting accommodation, but Jadhav has got an exclusive bungalow in a jiffy.
Kumbhar states in his letter to the Governor: “-you had appointed Rajendra Jadhav as the Information Commissioner of Amravati on 1 March 2014. However, after a while, SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad has cancelled that appointment and appointed him as the Information Commissioner of Pune. This action is not only illegal but is an encroachment on your authority. I wish to bring to your notice that even a minor issue like `casual leave' cannot be sanctioned without your consent as per your own circular.”
“On 26th June, you had appointed Mr Vasant Patil as the Information Commissioner of Nagpur but on 2nd July, Ratnakar Gaikwad has given him the additional charge as Amravati's Information Commissioner. Also, Gaikwad gave additional charge of Pune's Information Commissioner to Jadhav and has now appointed him as Pune's Information Commissioner. Please remember a special committee was appointed by you in order to appoint Jadhav as Information Commissioner of Amravati and hence, SCIC has no authority to re-appoint him elsewhere,” the letter added.

As per Section 15 (4) of the RTI Act -
The general superintendence, direction and management of the affairs of the State Information Commission shall vest in the State Chief Information Commissioner who shall be assisted by the State Information Commissioners and may exercise all such powers and do all such acts and things which may be exercised or done by the State Information Commission autonomously without being subjected to directions by any other authority under this Act.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)



G R Vora

2 years ago


This is outrageous ! In the first place there are illegalities committed in appointment of Info Commissioners by the "High Powered Committee(HPC)" (i.e. CM, Deputy CM and Leader of the Opposition) in appointing an IC by choosing a retiring bureaucrat (who invariably is one of their blue-eyed boys in the bureaucracy). Under Section 12 (4) of the RTI Act "The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance." Now what steps have been taken by this HPC to scout for appropriate IC as per this Section ? Never is the vacancy for this post advertised in print and electronic media nor on the Govt. website. There is no Screening Committee, no shortlisting of meritorious candidates etc. Simply a majority view is sought amongst these three members of HPC and pronto the candidate is finalised.

So is it a surprise that this Chief-SIC too (who by the way was the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra prior to his appointment) blatantly abuses his power to violate rules and procedures to favour the former Secretary to the President and gift him a spacious bungalow in Pune ?

I feel a suo moto cognizance should be taken by the Chief Justice of Bom HC of this gross irregularity in appointments and transfers of ICs and ensure that they are done in true letter and spirit of the sunshine law - the RTI Act, 2005.


G R Vora
[email protected]

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