Notes from India’s State Border Highways: Changing Rules, Institutional Corruption and Hoping for Too Much from GST

This essay looks at institutionalised corruption and its effect on Indian roadways, especially the Golden Quadrilateral. Despite higher speeds, delays of crossing states borders nullifies gains from speed. Will the goods and services tax change things?

For the first time in a month on Indian roads, I could hear my own breathing during the day in a truck’s cabin. With the hustle and bustle of Kolkata behind us, Soumik, the truck driver, concentrated on the well-paved, four-lane Golden Quadrilateral highway while he stole glances at the dipping sun. We were cruising at 45 kilometres (km) per hour and approximately 15 km away from the Odisha border, our destination; but Lokesh, Soumik’s assistant, repeatedly checked his Chinese digital watch. 

“We are almost at the Odisha border. You will have enough time to submit papers to the border custom officials. Why are you worried so much?” I asked them. I might as well have been asking the water-filled rice farms, shoe-less, head-load carrying, semi-naked populace walking like ants along the edge of the road, or the Bay of Bengal—the vast expanse of open sea—beyond the rice farms. Soumik and Lokesh kept quiet and remained lost in their thoughts of making it to the Odisha border.

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