NCERT Summary - Transport and Communication

Category : UPSC

 Transport and Communication


The use of transport and communication depends upon our need to move things from place of their availability to the place of their use.


Land Transport

Road Transport: India has .one of the largest road networks in the world with a total length. Of 33.1 lakh km (2005). About 85 per Cent of passenger and 70 per cent of freight traffic are carried by roads every year. Road transport is relatively suitable for shorter distance travel.


Road transport in modern sense was very limited in India before World War-11. The first serious attempt was made in 1943 when 'Nagpur Plan' was drawn. This plan could not be implemented; due to lack of coordination among the princely states and British India. After Independence/twenty- year road plan (1961:) was introduced to. improve the conditions of roads in India. However/ roads continue to concentrate in and around urban centers. Rural and remote areas had the least connectivity by road.


For the purpose of construction and maintenance/ roads are classified as National Highways (NH)/ State Highways (SH)/ Major District Roads and Rural Roads:


National Highways: The main roads which are constructed and maintained by the Central Government are known as the National Highways. These roads are meant for inter-state transport and movement of defence men and material in strategic areas. These also connect the state capitals/ major cities/ important ports/ railway junctions/ etc. The length of the National Highways has increased from 19/700 km in 1951 to 65,769 km in 2005. The National Highways constitute only two per cent of the total road: length but carry 40 per cent of the road traffic.


The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was operationalized in 1995. It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Surface Transport. It is entrusted with the responsibility of development/ maintenance and operation of National Highways. This is also the apex body to improve the .quality of the roads designated as National Highways.


Indian Road Network (2005)


Sr. No.

Road No.

Length in Category

% of Km Total road length


National Highways




State highways




Major District Roads




Rural Road








State Highways: These are constructed and maintained by state governments. They join the state capitals with district headquarters and other important towns. These roads are connected to the National Highways. These constitute 4 per cent of total road length in the country.


In order to consolidate his empire Shershah Suri built the road from Indus Valley (Pakistan) to Soner Valley in Bangal. This was coordinating Kolkata to Peshawar later on named as Grand Trunk Road during the British period. In the present time it has been divided into two part between Amritsar to Kolkata. (a) National Highway (NH-I) from Delhi to Amritsar. (b) National Highway (NH-2) Delhi to Kolkata.


District Roads: These roads are the connecting link   between   District Headquarters and the other important nodes in the district. They account for 14 per cent of the total road length of the country.

Rural Roads

These roads are vital for providing links in the rural areas. About 80 per cent of the total road length in India are categorized as rural roads. There is regional variation in the density of rural because these are influenced by the nature of the terrain.


Other Roads

Other roads include Border Roads and International Highways. The Border Road Organization (BRO) was established in May 1960 for accelerating economic development and strengthening defence preparedness through rapid and coordinated improvement of strategically important roads along the northern and north-eastern boundary of the country. It is a premier multifaceted construction agency. It has constructed roads in high altitude mountainous terrain joining Chandigarh with Manali (Himachal Pradesh) and Leh (Ladakh). This road runs at an average altitude of 4/270 meters above the mean sea level.


This organization has completed over 40/450 km of roads by March 2005. Apart from the construction and maintenance of roads in strategically sensitive areas, the BRO also undertakes snow clearance in high altitude areas. The international highways are meant to promote the harmonious relationship with the neighboring countries by providing effective links with India.


The distribution of roads is not uniform in the country. Density of roads (length of roads per 100 square km of area) varies from only 10.48 km in Jammu and Kashmir to 387.24 km in Kerala with a national average of 75.42 km. The density of road is high in most of the northern states and major southern states. It is low in the Himalayan region/ Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Why does this variation occur? Nature of terrain and the level of economic development are the main determinants of density of roads. Construction of roads is easy and cheaper in the plain areas while it is difficult and costly in hilly and plateau areas. Therefore/ not only the density but also the quality of roads is relatively better in plains as compared to roads in high altitude areas/ rainy and forested regions.


National Highways Development Projects

NHAI has taken up some major projects in the country under different phases:

Golden Quadrilateral: It comprises construction of 5/846 km long 4/6 lane/ high density traffic corridor/to connect India's four big metro cities of Delhi-Mumbai- Chennai-Kolkata. With the construction of Golden Quadrilateral, the time-distance and cost of movement among the mega cities of India will be considerably minimized.


North-South and East-West Corridors: North-South corridor aims at connecting Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Kaniyakumari in Tamil Nadu (including Kochi-Salempur) with 4,076 km long road. The East-West Corridor has been planned to -connect Silehar in Assam with the-port town of Porbandar in Gujarat with3,640 km of road length.


Rail Transport

Indian Railway was introduced in 1853, when. line was constructed from Bombay to than Covering a distance of 34 km.

Indian Railways is the largest government undertaking in the country. The length of Indian Railways network is 63,221 km. Its very. Large size puts lots of pressure on a centralized railway management system. Thus in India, the railway system has been divided in to sixteen zones. Table shows the zone-wise performance of Indian Railways.


Areas around towns; raw material producing areas and of plantations and other commercial crops, hill stations and cantonment towns were well-connected by railways from the British colonial era. These were" mostly developed for the exploitation of resources. -After the Independence of the country, railway routes have been extended to other areas too- The most significant development has been the development of Konkan Railway along the western coast providing direct link between Mumbai, and Mangalore. Railway continuous to remain the main means, of transport for the masses. Railway network is relatively less dense in the hill states, north eastern states, central parts of India and Rajasthan.


Rural Roads: These roads received special impetus under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana. Under this scheme special provisions are made so that every village in the country is, linked to a major town in the country by an all season motorable road.


Konkan Railway: Konkan Railway was a great achievement of Indian railway in 1998. It is 760 km long track extending from Roha in Karnataka to Mangalore. This railway crosses 146 rivers, 2000 bridges and 91 tunnels, has longest tunnels of the Asia having6.5 km in length. It is joint enterprise of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra government


Indian Railway Zone

Railway Zone



Mumbai CST



East Central


East Cost



New Delhi

North Central


North Eastern


North East Frontier

Maligaon (Guwahti)

North Western




South Central


South Eastern


South East Central


South western



Mumbai (Charch Gate)

West Central



Water Transport

Waterways is an important mode of transport for both passenger and cargo traffic in India. It is the cheapest means of transport and is most suitable for, carrying heavy and bulky material. It is a fuel-efficient and eco- friendly mode of transport. The water transport is of two types-(a) inland waterways, and (b) oceanic waterways.


Inland Waterways

It was the chief mode of transport before the advent of railways. It, however, faced tough competition from road and railway transport. Moreover, diversion of river water for irrigation purposes made them non navigable in large parts of their courses. India has 14,500 km of navigable waterways, contributing about 1% to the country's transportation. It comprises rivers, canals, backwaters, creeks, etc. At present, 3,700 km of major rivers are navigable by mechanized flat bottom vessels, out of which only 2,000 km are actually used. Similarly, out of 4,300 km of the network of navigable canal, only 900 km is navigable by mechanized vessels.


For the development, maintenance and regulation of national waterways in the country/the Inland Waterways Authority was set up in-1986. The authority has declared three inland waterways as National Waterways as given in the table.


Inland Waterways Authority has also identified ten other inland waterways, which could be upgraded. The backwaters (Kadal) t, of Kerala has special significance in Inland H Waterway. Apart from providing cheap [" means of transport, they are also attracting large number of tourists in Kerala. The famous Nehru Trophy Boat Race (VALLANKALI) is also held in the backwaters.


National Highway-7 is the longest and traverses 2,369 km between Varanasi and Kanyakumari via Jabalpur, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Madurai. Delhi and Mumbai are connected by National Highway-8, while National Highway-15 covers most of Rajasthan.


Oceanic Routes

India has a vast coastline of approximate 7,517 km, including islands. Twelve major and 185 minor ports provide infrastructural support to these routes. Oceanic routes play an important role in the transport sector of India's economy. Approximately 95 per cent of India's foreign trade by volume and 70 per cent by value moves through ocean routes. Apart from international trade, these also used for the purpose of transportation between the islands and the rest of the country.


Air Transportation

Air Transport is the fastest means of movement from one place to the other. It has reduced distances by minimizing the travel time. It is very essential for a vast country like India, where distances are large and the terrain and climatic conditions are diverse.


Air transport in India made a beginning in 1911 when airmail operation commenced over a little distance of 10 km between Allahabad and Naini. But its real development took place in post-Independent period. The Airport Authority of India is responsible for providing safe, efficient air traffic and aeronautical communication services in the Indian Air Space. The authority manages 126 airports including 11 international, 86 domes- tic and 29 civil enclaves at defence air fields.


The air transport in India is managed by two corporations. Air India and Indian .Airlines after, nationalization. Now many private companies have also started passenger services.


History of Indian Airlines

1911   - Air transport in India was launched between Allahabad and Naini.

1947   - Air transport was provided by four major companies namely Indian National Airways. Tata Sons Limited, Air Services of India and Deccan Airways.

1951   - Four more companies joined the services, . Bharat Airways, Himalayan Aviation Limited, Airways India and Kalinga Airlines.

1953   - Air transport was nationalized and two Corporations. Air India International and Indian Airlines were formed. Now Indian Airlines is known as 'Indian'.


Air India: Air India provides International Air Services for both passengers and cargo traffic. It connects all the continents of the world through its services. In 2005, it carried 12.2 million passengers and 4.8 lakh metric tons of cargo. About 52 per cent of the total air traffic was handled only at Mumbai and Delhi airports. In 2005, domestic movement involved 24.3 million passengers and 20 lakh metric tonnes of cargo. Pawan Hans is the helicopter service operating in hilly areas and is widely used by tourists in north-eastern sector.


in addition, Pawan Hans Limited mainly provides helicopter services to petroleum sector and for tourism,


Oil and Gas Pipelines: Pipelines are the most convenient and efficient mode of transporting liquids and gasses over long distances. Even solids can also be transported by pipelines after converting them into slurry. Oil India Limited (OIL) under the administrative set up of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is engaged in the exploration, production and transportation of crude Oil and natural gas. It was incorporated in 1959 as a company. Asia's first cross country pipeline covering a distance of 1,157 km was constructed by OIL from Naharkatiya oilfield in Assam to Barauni refinery to Bihar. It was further extended up to Kanpur in 1966. Another extensive network of pipeline has been constructed in the western region of India of which Ankleshwar-Koyali, Mumbai High- Koyali and Hazira-Vijapur-Jagdishpur (HVJ) are most important. Recently, a 1256 km long pipeline connecting Salaya (Gujarat) with Mathura (U.P.) has been constructed. It supplies crude oil from Gujarat to Punjab (Jalandhar) via Mathura. OIL is in the process of constructing of 660 km long pipeline from Numaligarh to Siliguri.


Communication Networks: Human beings have evolved different methods of communication over time. In earlier times, the messages were delivered by beating the drum or hollow tree trunks, giving indications through smoke or fire or with the help of fast runners. Horses, camels, dogs, birds and other animals were also used to send messages. Initially/the means of communication were also the means of transportation. Invention of post office, telegraph, printing press, telephone, satellite, etc. has made the communication much faster and easier. Development in the field of science and technology has significantly contributed in bringing about revolution in the field of communication.


People use different modes of communication to convey the messages. On the basis of scale and quality, the mode of communication can be divided into following categories:


Personal Communication System: Among all the personal communication system internet is the most effective and advanced one. It is" widely used in urban areas. It enables the user to establish direct contact through e-mail to get access to the world of knowledge and information. It is increasingly used for e-commerce and carrying out money transactions. The internet is like a huge central warehouse of data, with detailed information on various items. The network through internet and e-mail provides an efficient access to information at a comparatively low cost. It enables us with the basic facilities of direct communication.


Three types of Indian Railway on the basis of breadth of Rails

  1. Broad guage- distance — two rails mts total length of Broad guage in India.
  2. Meter guage- Distance between two rail in one meter. Total length of meter ganage in India is 13,290 km, account 21.02% of total length of country.
  3. Narrow gauge- Distance between two rail isO.762 mts/0.610 mts. Total length is 3,124 km, accounts 4,49% of total length.


Mass Communication System

Radio: Radio broadcasting started in India in 1923 by the Radio Club of Bombay. Since then, it gained immense popularity and changed the socio cultural the life of people. Within no time, it made a place in every household of the country. Government took this opportunity and brought this popular mode of communication under its control in 1930 under the Indian Broadcasting System. It was changed to All India Radio in 1936 and to Akashwani in 1957.


All India Radio broadcasts a variety of programmes related to information, education and entertainment. Special news bulletins are also broadcast at specific occasions like session of parliament and state legislatures,


Television    (T.V.):   Television broadcasting has emerged as the most effective audio-visual medium for disseminating information and educating masses. Initially, the T.V. services were limited only to the National Capital where it began in 1959. After 1972, several other centers became operational. In 1976, TV was delinked from All India Radio (AIR) and got a separate identity as Doordarshan (DD). After INSAT-IA (National Television- DD1) became operational. Common National Programmes (CNP) were started for the entire network and its services were extended to the backward and remote rural areas.


Satellite Communication: Satellites are mode of communication in themselves as well as they regulate the use of other means of communication. However, use of satellite in very vital for the country, due to the economic and strategic reasons. Satellite images can be used for the weather forecast, monitoring of natural calamities/surveillance of border areas, etc. On the basis of configuration and purposes, satellite system in India can be grouped into two: Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) and Indian Remote Sensing Satellite System (IRS).

The INSAT, which was established in 1983, is a multipurpose satellite system for telecommunication,    meteorological observation/and for various other data and programmes.


The. IRS satellite system became operational with the launching of IRS-IA in March 1988 from Vaikanour in Russia. India has also developed her own Launching Vehicle PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). These satellites collect data in several spectral bands and transmit them to the ground stations for various uses. The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) at Hyderabad provides facilities for acquisition of data and its processing. These are very useful in the management of natural resources.                          







West Europe



East Europe



CLS and Baltic states



Asia and Oceania









Latin American Countries



Source: India 2006




International Trade

The exchange of goods among people, states and countries is referred to as trade. The market is the place where such exchanges take place. Trade between two countries is called international trade. It may take place through sea, air or land routes. While local trade is carried in cities, towns and villages, state level, trade is carried between two or more states. Advancement of international trade of a country is an index to its economic prosperity. It is, therefore, considered the economic barometer for a country.


As the resources are space bound, no country can survive without international trade. Export and import are the components of trade. The balance of trade of a country is the difference between its export and import. When the value of export exceeds the value of imports, it is caused a favorable balance of trade. On the-contrary, if. the value of imports exceeds the value of exports, it is termed as unfavorable balance of trade.


India has trade relations with all the major trading blocks and all geographical regions of the world. Among the commodities of export, whose share has been increasing over the last few year till 2004-0; are agriculture and allied products (2.53 pei cent), ores and minerals (9.12 per cent), gem; and jewellery (26.75 per cent) and chemical and allied products (24.45 per cent) engineering goods (35.63 per cent) and petroleum products (86.12 per cent).


Table: India's Major Trading Partner's Percentage share in total trade (Export + Import)






















Hong Kong


















Source: Economic Survey 2005-06


The commodities imported to India include petroleum and petroleum products (41.87 per cent), pearls and precious stones (29.26 per cent), inorganic chemicals (29.39 per cent), coal, coke and briquettes (94.17 per cent), machinery (12.56 per cent). Bulk imports as a group registered a growth accounting for 39.09 per cent of total imports. This group includes fertilizers (67.01 per cent), cereals (25.23 per cent), edible oils (7.94 per cent) and newsprint (5.51 per cent). International trade has under gone a sea change in the last fifteen years. Exchange of commodities and goods have been superseded by the exchange of information and knowledge. India has emerged as a software giant at the international level and it is earning large foreign exchange through the export of information technology.


Direction of Trade

India has trade relations with most of the countries and major trading blocks of the world. .


India aims to double its share in the international trade within the next five years. It has already started adopting suitable measures such as import liberalization, reduction in import duties, de-licensing and change from process to product patents.


Asia and Oceania accounted for 47.41 per cent of India's export followed by West Europe (23.80 per cent) and America (20.42). Similarly, India's imports were highest from Asia and Oceania (35.40 per cent) followed by West Europe (22.60 per cent) and America (8.36 per cent) in 2004-05.


The U.S.A. is India's largest trading partner and the most trading partner and the most important destination of India's export. Other countries in order of significance include the U.K., Belgium, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Hong Kong, the U.A.E., China, Singapore and Malaysia.


Most of India's foreign trade is carried through sea and air routes. However, a small portion is also carried through land route to neighboring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.



Today Indian ports are handling large volumes of domestic as well as overseas trade. Most of the ports are equipped with modern infrastructure. Previously the development and modernization was the responsibility of the government agencies, but considering the increase in function and need to bring these ports at par with the international ports, private entrepreneurs have been invited for the modernization of ports in India. The capacity of Indian ports increased from 20 million tonnes of cargo handling in 1951 to more than 5CO million tonnes at present.


Kandla Port situated at the head of Gulf of Kuchchh has been developed as a major port to cater to the needs of western and north western parts of the country and also to reduce the pressure at Mumbai port. The port is specially designed to receive large quantities of petroleum and petroleum products and fertilizer. The offshore terminal at Vadinar has been developed to reduce the pressure at Kandla port.


Demarcation of the boundary of the hinterland would be difficult as it is not fixed over space. In most of the cases/ hinterland of one port may overlap with that of the other.


Mumbai is a natural harbor and the biggest port of the country. The ports situated closer to the general routes from the countries of Middle .East, Mediterranean countries/ North Africa, North America and Europe where the major share of country's overseas trade is carried out. The port is 20 km long and 6-10 km wide with 54 berths and has the country's largest oil terminal. M.P. Maharashtra, Gujarat, U.P. and parts of Rajasthan constitute the main hinterlands of Mumbai ports,   


Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Nhava Sheva was developed as a satellite port to relieve the pressure at, the Mumbai port. It is the largest container port in India.


Marmagao Port, situated at the entrance of the Zuari estuary, is a natural harbor in Goa. It gained significance after its remodeling in 1961 to handle iron-ore exports to Japan. Construction of Konkan railway has considerably extended the hinterland of this port. Karnataka, Goa, Southern Maharashtra constitutes its hinterland.   


New Mangalore Port is located in the state of Karnataka and caters to the needs of the export of iron-ore and iron-concentrates. It also 'handles fertilizers, petroleum products, edible oils, coffee, tea, wood pulp, yam, granite stone, molasses, etc. Karnataka is the major hinterland for this port.


Kochchi Port situated at the head of Vembanad Kayal, popularly known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea," is also a natural harbor. This port has .an advantageous location being close to the Suez-Colombo route. It caters to the needs of Kerala, southern- Karnataka and south western Tamil Nadu.


Kolkata Port is located on the Hulgi River, 128 km inland from the Bay of Bengal. Like the Mumbai port, this port was also developed by the British. Kolkata had the initial advantage of being the capital of British India. The port has lost its significance considerably on account of the diversion of exports to the other ports such as Vishakhapatnam, Paradwip and its satellite port, Haldia.


Kolkata port is also confronted with the problem of silt accumulation in the Hugli River which provides a link to the sea. Its hinterland covers U.P, Bihar, Jhai-khand, West Bengal, Sikkim and the north-eastern states; Apart from this, it also extends ports facilities to our neighboring land-locked countries such as Nepal and Bhutan.


Haldia Port is located 105 km downstream from Kolkata. It .has been constructed to reduce the congestion at Kolkata port. It handles bulk cargo like iron ore, coal, petroleum, petroleum products and fertilizers, jute, jute products, cotton and cotton yam, etc.


Paradwip Port is .situated in the Mahanadi delta, about 100 km from Cuttack. It has the deepest harbor specially suited to handle very large vessels. It has been developed mainly to handle large-scale export of iron-ore. Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are the -parts of its hinterland.


Visakhapatnam Port in Andhra Pradesh is a land-locked harbor, connected to the sea by a channel cut through solid rock and sand. An outer harbor has been developed for handling iron-ore, petroleum and general cargo. Andhra Pradesh is the main hinterland for this port.


Chennai Port is one of the oldest ports on the eastern coast. It is an artificial harbor built in 1859. It is not much suitable for large ships because of the shallow waters near the coast. Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry are its hinterland. Ennore, a newly developed port in Tamil Nadu, has been constructed 25 km north of Chennai to relieve the pressure at Chennai port. Tuticorin Port was also developed to relieve the pressure of Chennai port. It deals with a variety of cargo including coal, salt, food grains, edible oils, sugar, chemical and petroleum products.


Tourism as a Trade

Tourism in India has grown substantially over the last three decades. Foreign tourist's arrivals in the country witnessed an increase of 23.5 per cent during the year 2004 as against, the year 2003, thus contributing Rs. 21,828 crore of foreign exchange. Over 2.6 million foreign tourists visit India every year. More than 15 –million people are directly engaged in the tourism industry. Tourism also promotes national integration, provides support to local handicrafts and cultural pursuits. It also helps in the development of international understanding about our culture and heritage. Foreign tourists visit India for heritage tourism, eco-tourism, adventure tourism, cultural tourism, medical tourism and business tourism.


Rajasthan, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and temple towns of south India are important destinations of foreign tourists in India. There is vast potential of tourism development in the north-eastern states and the interior parts of Himalayas, but due to strategic reasons these have not been encouraged so far. However, there lies a bright future ahead for this upcoming industry.


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