In his speech to the Indian parliament, the finance minister proposed to allocate Rs 37,880 crores (roughly 7.01 million 110cc bike equivalents, or 1BEs) to the National Highways Authority of India and State Roads, including Rs 3,000 crores for the North East. ET reports that last fiscal year only saw the allocation of 3,169km of roads projects versus a target of 7,500km. FY13, says the same report, says 1,322km projects awarded against a target of 9,500km. The finance minister aimed for the construction of 8,500km in the current financial year. A further Rs 500 crore is being set aside for the construction of expressways in parallel to the development of industrial corridors.
There will be more places to ride our bikes to! I am not sure how long the awesome surfaces and street furniture of these new roads will last, but for the moment at least, we should have roads in the pink of health leading us to new places, or to the same old places but via new routes.
Sandwiched between the news on the new industrial corridors, tourist circuits and smart cities are references to the role of transportation infrastructure that will be needed to tie these projects together. The logic is simple - a factory that cannot ship its production is as useless as a house whose occupants cannot go to work, to school and at some point, for a ride.
Even more roads to ride our bikes on!
The finance minister has, as we have noted, set aside Rs 500 crore to expressways. This is great news.
Most Indian expressways (all?) do not permit motorcycles to ply on them. But as we have seen with the Mumbai-Pune expressway, it slowly but surely leaves the old highway empty and free of traffic for us. So the more expressways they build, the more highways we will get to have fun riding in safety and relative peace.
Amidst his tax proposals, the finance minister increased the free baggage allowance from the current Rs 30,000 to Rs 45,000. Which means when you are returning from abroad, new items up to a value of Rs 45,000 (plus one laptop as per current policy) is allowed a tax and duty-free import into the country.
Celebrate! It means you can shop harder on amazon, motorcyclegear.com, revzilla.com or whatever online or brick-mortar motorcycle gear shop you prefer. And then bring all that safety gear back home without being bothered by the men in white. The men in white can be quite helpful but usually aren't. A higher ceiling should make it easier to walk in with a set of aluminium rims worn like a courier bag across the shoulder with a straight face. After all, coming home should just be easy, right?
The finance minister has agreed to let the current excise duty exemption run till December 31, 2014, which is perhaps the only direct reference to the automotive industry. Which is why all the budget reactions we are receiving in our press release email box are about the magnitude of social, infrastructural and other changes in the budget which are "sure to affect the automotive industry in a positive manner." At some point, of course. We have no quarrel with that.
Get 'em while they're still cheap because as it stands, prices rise January 1, 2015 onwards.
The finance minister agreed that the arbitrary 800c displacement limit needed to be addressed and that 549cc is a much better line in the sand because it makes so many more options available to the Indian motorcycle enthusiast who, it must be said, is a hugely important participant in the Indian economy and now constitutes 0.00004961 per cent of India's total GDP. Not.
Get real. This last thing didn't happen. You haven't woken up from your nightmare just yet.