India’s Fast Lane to the Future

India’s Fast Lane to the Future

A new superhighway linking its four major cities is bringing old and new India into jarring proximity... for better and worse.

India’s new national highway — part crushed rock and asphalt, part yellow brick road — swings through Bangalore as it races across southern India bearing the turbocharged hopes of a billion people from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. The Golden Quadrilateral (GQ), the brand-new, 3,633-mile expressway, links India’s major population centers of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. It is part of the largest and most ambitious public infrastructure project in the country’s history, one with a social engineering goal at its heart: Much as the U.S. interstate highway system mobilized American society and grooved the postwar economy, India hopes the Golden Quadrilateral will push the country’s economic engine into overdrive, bringing the benefits of growth in its booming metropolises out to its impoverished villages, where more than half the population lives.

The GQ is among the most elaborately conceived highway systems in the world, a masterpiece of high-tech ingenuity that is, in many ways, a calling card for India in the 21st century. Its development has quickened the pulse of the nation, boosted traffic volume, and brought millions of workers pouring into medium-size and large cities from the countryside. Yet the GQ has also brought old and new India into jarring proximity, challenging the moral and cultural underpinnings of a nation founded on Gandhian principles of austerity, brotherhood, and spirituality. It’s sharpened India’s appetite for material possessions, especially cars, and many Indians, especially those over 30, have a hard time recognizing the India they see advertised on television and billboards, which comes in a wide choice of designer colors and does zero to sixty in under ten seconds.

National Geographic’s ambitious five-part video series takes a close look at the pros and cons of India’s superhighway project, and its many ramifications:

India’s Highway (3:36)
See how the new superhighway is changing the face of India for better … and worse.

Car Culture: Full Speed Ahead (5:44)
The rise of automobiles in India gives rise to a culture of auto enthusiasts.

Luxurious Life (4:34)
Better infrastructure in India has led to better economic opportunities for some people.

Human Toll (6:45)
Economic development can have a negative impact through the displacement of entire communities.

Truckin’: The Filthiest Job (6:44)
Long hours and dangerous roads can make driving a truck a less than glamorous occupation.

Executive Producer: Hans Weise
Producer/Video Editor: Julie Winokur
Photographer: Ed Kashi
Videographer: Vinay Didee
Photo Editor: Gail Fisher
Photo Assistant: Sherry Brukbacher
Story: Don Belt

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