The Union government plans to ensure that ambulances, manned by critical care personnel, are available every 50km of the 65,590km long national highway.
Separately, the home ministry is close to finalizing plans for at least 500 ambulances to cover the entire National Capital Region around New Delhi.
Together, the two efforts will result in some 1,800 new ambulances being acquired.
The road project, being worked out jointly by the surface transport and health ministry, will be rolled out in a phased manner over the next few months, said a person familiar with the development who didn’t want to be named. “Top officials of the two ministries met last week with representatives of Indian commercial vehicle manufacturers to discuss the project and work out the broad guidelines.”
India’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer Tata Motors Ltd and a few others such as Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Eicher Motors Ltd, Swaraj Mazda Ltd, Hindustan Motors Ltd and Force Motors Ltd participated in the discussion.
A joint meeting of both the ministries on Monday gave final touches to the project and tenders for the supply of ambulances will be released in less than two weeks from now, this person said.
The project to press ambulances into service across the country is being spearheaded by the Centralized Accidents & Trauma Services, a body floated by the government. The tenders for the project was first released in January but did not take off since manufacturers could not provide vehicles of the prescribed specifications.
The latest meeting was the result of fresh dialogue by government officials and vehicle manufacturers, this person said adding that auto manufacturers have now agreed to manufacture the single piece modules required by the medical community.
The project to procure ambulances for Delhi is being handled by the Delhi government, which expects to have the project off the ground by September this year.
For the domestic commercial vehicle manufacturers, the government’s decision could prove to be a boon as the industry is going through a sluggish phase. Some of the commercial vehicle manufacturers are, in fact, revisiting their production schedules to factor in a further drop in sales.
Vehicle sales in India, Asia’s fourth largest automobile market, fell in the quarter ended June, the first decline in six years, as buyers postponed or avoided purchases smarting from five-year-high lending rates.
Vehicle sales fell 5.6% in the period and the slump is expected to extend into the second quarter of this financial year. In the quarter ended June, 2.27 million units were sold, compared with 2.4 million units in the same period a year ago.
The move to press ambulances and emergency care personnel into action on the 65,590km long national highways comes against the backdrop of many more Indians driving as higher disposable incomes have fuelled a big growth in passenger cars.
A thriving economy also has the national highways and state highways buzzing with commercial vehicles plying cargo across the country.
The Indian national highways link the country’s metros and provide connectivity to important ports and harbours. The longest national highways is the NH7 stretching from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to the southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, covering 2,369km.
In 2005, the National Highways Authority of India kicked off an ambitious $12.54 billion (Rs crore) phase III of the National Highway Development Project to upgrade more than 10,000km of India’s national highways. Private participation in these projects is part of the plan to upgrade the highway.
The Union government’s move to make the country’s national highways safer comes even as Asia’s roads remain very unsafe. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (Unescap), the Asia Pacific region will account for more than two-thirds or 440,000 of the 610,000 road accident deaths annually around the world, by 2020.