New Delhi, May 28:
Shifting to top gear on laying of national highways, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said he will surpass his own target of 30 km per day by next year, against the current average of 14 km, lining up projects worth Rs.3.5 lakh crore.
“Our target was to achieve 30 km per day of road construction by two years of assuming office. Now this will be exceeded,” Gadkari said at an event here to release a report card booklet of his ministry on one year of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government.
“The target will be met. The finance ministry has assured funding for Rs.3.5 lakh crore worth of road construction projects in the coming six months. So, the speed will increase in laying of highways,” said Gadkari, who also oversees the shipping portfolio.
According to the minister, the task of placing orders worth Rs.3.5 lakh crore for construction of roads in the next six months will not be easy, as problems still persist, notably in areas such as land acquisition, regulatory clearances and financing.
“But we will do it. We will achieve all our targets set for this fiscal. Already, we have five new projects that have attracted bidders under the public-private partnership model and 17 more are in the final stages of being awarded using the hybrid model.”
According to various estimates, India currently has the world’s second-largest road network, totalling some 4.7 million km, transporting over 60 percent of all goods in the country and nearly 85 percent of passenger traffic. But the government itself says half of these roads are in poor shape.
This apart, highways account for only two percent of the total roads network but transport 40 percent of goods.
The minister said at May end the road construction pace stood at 14 km per day. In the last three months of the last government, the activity had come down to 2 km per day.
In terms of stuck projects, the minister said each and every one of the stalled project will be restarted by the end of next month.
“We have terminated some projects, invested additional equity in others. The rest of the stuck projects were helped by the cabinet’s recent decision to allow concessionaires to sell equity in completed projects and reinvest the funds in on-going projects,” the minister divulged.
Gadkari said when he took charge of the ministry last year, there were 240 projects in all under the public-private partnership (PPP) model, of which 186 were stuck. Of the remaining, 44 have now been terminated, 80 have been re-started and the remaining will re-commence by June.
The minister revealed that his ministry plans to compile a list of lucrative projects which are to be awarded and the changes in regulatory and clearance environment made to lure foreign funds, domestic banks and contractors back into the industry.
“The Prime Minister might soon host a conference to restore the confidence of banks, pension funds, endowment funds, foreign investors, domestic banks and contracts,” the minister said.
In 2014-15, the government was able to achieve 8,000 km of road construction from 3,621 km in 2013-14. Contracts worth Rs.45,000 crore were given out during the last fiscal.
Currently, there are 37,000 km of roads under construction through 1,231 projects, costing a total of Rs.2.25 lakh crore.
About his shipping portfolio, Gadkari said in the coming days, his ministry will promote a plan to build 12 Smart Cities around areas of ship building and ship breaking activity.
He said that shipyards have been directed to equip youth with skills in the ship building industry and that all his ministries will generate 25 lakh new jobs in the coming period.
On the new road safety bill, the minister said that the cabinet will soon consider it and then present it in parliament. (IANS)