Shri Nitin Gadkari, Hon’ble Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping, Rural Development and Drinking Water & Sanitation, Govt of India was here in Mumbai today at the CII National Council Meeting. He spoke about the various initiatives being undertaken by the new government in terms of improving infrastructure in the country and the role of investments in infrastructure in creating employment and accelerating GDP growth. He invited the industry to take the initiative to create a `Bank of Ideas’ for developing world-class infrastructure.
The Minister said that the development of road infrastructure is very vital for the economic progress of the nation. The Minister said that there is a consideration to use cement instead of bitumen as a construction material to build roads considering the cost factor.
Mr Gadkari stressed that inland waterways need to be developed as it is much more economical as compared to road and rail transport. And for this, the major rivers of the country need to be connected. He said that the Ministry is also focussing on ports sector. He plans to connect 12 ports for which the proposal has been sent to railways. The Shipping Ministry is also planning to start a RORO service in the country for transporting vehicles from factories. He said that work is also being done on drafting new policies for the ship building and ship breaking industry.
The Minister said that it was important for private sector to collaborate with the government to develop infrastructure projects. However, he also admitted that private sector is shying away from PPP projects primarily because of high interest rates and reluctance of banks to fund such projects. In this situation, foreign investment can prove to be the best source for low-cost funding. He said that the Ministry has recently started considering awarding contracts through EPC route to instill confidence in private players and boost to PPP projects. The Minister also said that the model agreement will be decided based upon the inputs from both the parties and invited industry to give suggestions. FDI is also being allowed in a huge way to develop infrastructure.
Speaking about new initiatives, the Minister said that a special corporation viz. North East Corporation will be set up soon to drive infrastructure creation in the region. He also spoke about efforts being made at expediting the tunnel projects in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Minister also spoke about the need to reduce the country’s oil imports by promoting the use of indigenous fuels. He also urged automobile manufacturers to manufacture electric vehicles, which will meet this aim. In addition to this, he also expressed interest in skill development for the infrastructure sector and urged industry to take the lead in setting up engineering colleges, ITIs and skill development colleges.
Mr Gadkari stressed that the new government has zero tolerance for red-tapism and corruption and is committed to transparency. The government is taking measures like e-governance and stringent laws to curb malpractices and corruption.