• Roads have been in India for the last 5000 years
  • In the early stages of Indian History, Ashoka and Chandragupta made efforts to construct roads; but the real progress was made during the Mughal Period



  • Roads play a very important role in the transportation of goods and passengers for short & medium distances
  • Road transport system establishes easy contact between farms, fields, factories and markets and provides for door to door service
  • Roads can negotiate high gradients and sharp turns, which railways cannot do. As such, roads can be constructed in hilly areas too
  • Roads act as good feeders to railways. Without good and sufficient roads, railways cannot collect sufficient produce to make their operation possible


The following plan have been drawn up to develop roadways in India

  1. Nagpur Plan
    • This was the first serious attempt to develop roadways in 1943
    • The plan envisaged at increasing the kilometrage of major roads in India
    • Plan could not be implemented immediately, because the country was ruled by a number of princely states outside of British India
  2. Twenty Year Plan
    • This was drawn in 1961, and it aimed at increasing the road length and density in India
    • It also aimed at bringing villages close to metaled roads in India
  3. The Rural Development Plan
    • This included the construction of rural roads under Minimum Needs Programme, Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme, Jawahar Rojgar Yojana, etc.
  4. Build Operate transfer(BOT)
    • This is a scheme under which private operators are invited to construct roads and bridges
    • The private players are allowed to collect toll for the usage of Infrastructure, post which the assets are transferred to the Government



The roads in India are classified into four categories, on functional basis:

  1. National Highways
      • TheNational highways in India are a network of trunk roads owned by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways
      • It is constructed and managed by the National Highway Authority of India(NHAI), the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited(NHIDCL), and the public works departments (PWD) of state governments
      • These roads are meant for inter-state and strategic defense movements and the connect the state capitals, big cities, important ports and link up with border roads
      • These form the lifeline of road transport and constitute the framework of road system in India
      • India has 151,019 km (93,839 mi) of National Highways as of March 2021


  • The historically important Sher Shah Suri Marg is known as National Highway 1. It links Delhi and Amritsar
  • National Highway 7 is the longest one, and it links Varanasi with Kanniyakumari
  • According to data from ‘Ministry of road transport and Highways’, Maharashtra has the longest length of National Highway, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan


Major initiatives

  • The National Highways Development Project(NHDP) started in 1998, is a project to upgrade, rehabilitate and widen major highways in India to a higher standard.
  • The Golden Quadrilateral(GQ) project initiated in 1999, is a national highway network connecting most of the major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of India. It forms a quadrilateral connecting the four major metro cities of India, viz., Delhi (north), Kolkata (east), Mumbai (west) and Chennai (south)
  • The Bharatmala Pariyojana( ‘India garland project’) is a centrally-sponsored and funded Road and Highways project of the Government of India
    • Bharatmala Project will interconnect 550 District Headquarters (from current 300) through a minimum 4-lane highway by raising the number of corridors to 50 (from current 6) and move 80% freight traffic (40% currently) to National Highways by interconnecting 24 logistics parks, 66 inter-corridors (IC) of total 8,000 km (5,000 mi), 116 feeder routes (FR) of total 7,500 km (4,700 mi) and 7 north east Multi-Modal waterway ports
    • The umbrella programme will subsume all existing Highway Projects including the flagship National Highways Development Project (NHDP)


  1. State Highways
    • These are constructed and maintained by state governments, and join the state capitals with district headquarters and other important towns
    • These roads constitute about 3.5% of the total road length in India
    • Although construction and maintenance of state highways is the responsibility of the concerned state governments, yet with the revamping of the Central Road Fund(CRF) in 2000, the Centre provides financial assistance for development of state roads
      • Further, central government provides 100% grant for inter-state connectivity and 50% grant for projects of economic importance from CRF


  • Maharashtra has the maximum length of state highways, followed by Karnataka, Gujarat, etc.


  1. District Roadways
    • These roads join the district headquarters with other places of the district
    • Development and maintenance of these roads fall within the purview of Zila Parishads
    • Maharashtra is at the top, in this category


  1. Village roads
    • These are mainly the responsibility of village panchayats and connect the villages with the neighboring towns and cities
    • These are generally dusty tracks, and become muddy and unserviceable during the rainy season
    • A new thrust was given to Village roads when the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana(PMGSY) was launched in December 2020
      •  This is a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme, to provide rural connectivity to unconnected habitations with a population of 500 persons or more( 250 people in case of hilly, desert and tribal areas)
  1. Border Roads
    • Border roads organization(BRO) was set up in 1960, for accelerating economic development and strengthening defense preparedness through rapid and coordinated improvement of roads in the north and North-Eastern border areas
    • This Border Roads Organisation(BRO) has constructed and black-topped the highest road in the world at Umlingla Pass in Eastern Ladakh. The highest motorable road in the world is situated at an altitude of 19,300 feet.
  1. Urban Roads
    • This is a road within the limits of the area of municipality, military cantonment, port or railway authority
  1. Project Road
    • A road within the limits of the area of a development project of a public authority for the exploitation of resources such as forests, irrigation, hydro-power, coal, etc. is called a project road
  1. International Highways
    • The roads which are financed by the World Bank and connect India with neighboring countries are called International Highways
    • There are two categories of such highways
      1. The main arterial routes linking the capitals of neighboring countries. Some of the examples of this category are the Lahore-Mandalay route, Agra-Gwalior-Hyderabad-Bengaluru-Dhanushkodi road
      2. The routes joining major cities, ports etc. with arterial routes such as Agra-Mumbai road, Delhi-Multan road, Bengaluru-Chennai Road



  • There exist great variations in the distribution of roads in India
  • The length of National Highways passing through a state is not always a true index of economic well being of a state, as they serve only the main routes
    • Ex: Bihar has some of the longer route length of National highways, still is Economically backward compared to other states
  • But, the length of state highways could be a better index of road accessibility at the state level
  • An index of road accessibility, is the density of roads, which is defined as the length of roads per 100 of surface area
  • A representation of road densities in India is as follows: