Amidst the raging politics on petroleum pricing, a report has established that the country was losing Rs. 87,500 crore because of poor roads and tolling systems annually.

The figure gains significance against the backdrop of desperate attempts by the Union government to curb the subsidy outgo on petroleum products that puts a drain of approximately Rs. 1.38 lakh crore on the exchequer.

Going by the report, prepared by IIM-Calcutta on behalf of Transport Corporation of India, the stated loss of Rs. 60,000 crore accounts for almost 43 per cent of the drain the government is said to suffer due to growing consumption of diesel, kerosene, and LPG.

As a matter of fact, the loss due to defective road system is more than the under-recoveries on diesel, reported by the Petroleum Ministry, which was Rs. 81,192 crore in 2011-12, though it is estimated to rise to Rs. 1.07 crore in 2012-13.

Union Minister of Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh, has called for immediate steps to bring down the burden, and Petroleum Minister S. Jaipal Reddy has proposed a hefty additional tax on diesel vehicles.

The move has been opposed by Heavy Industry Minister Praful Patel, standing by the cause of the automobile manufacturers who are worried such a move would affect one segment of the industry that was already reeling under the impact of the global financial crisis.

According to the report on operational efficiency of freight transportation by road in India, no appreciable difference was noted in terms of average speed of vehicles, mileage, stoppage delays per km and stoppage expenses per tonne-km between 2008-09 and 2011-12. The report estimated that stoppage delays cost the economy approximately Rs. 27,500 crore per annum, and the impact of additional fuel consumption due to stoppage delays and slow speed of vehicles was around Rs. 60,000 crore.

The report called for immediate development of new roads, and widening and maintenance of the existing roads, besides shifting to electronic toll collection system, as the present one delayed each freight vehicle by approximately five to 10 minutes.

It also called for access-controlled expressways, and suggested that at least 18,637 km of expressway be built in the 13 Five-Year Plan. At present, India has just 600 to 700 km of access-controlled expressway, as against 74,000 km in China.

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