There is a saying that everyone in the construction industry is dishonest, which is a wrong perception
- Anil Swarup, Former Secretary, Government of India
It’s important for to understand how you engage with the Government and what you do with the Government.
When I took over at the coal ministry, everyone thought that scams were a problem. And two scams had already broken out. When I analysed it, I realised that scams were just a symptom of a problem, of a much deeper problem. We discovered that the primary problem of coal scams was shortage of coal. Imagine, India sits on 300 billion tonne of coal reserves and we require only 800 billion for our need. There is demand and there is supply, yet we are short of coal. Then we tried to decide why there is a shortage of coal if so much coal is supplied. So for getting coal, there are three important ingredients: Availability of land, environment and forest clearance, and evacuation of coal.
When I say approach the Government, the last point I want to mention is that sometimes the Government does not analyse the problem to identify where the problem is. There is a saying that everyone in the construction industry is dishonest, which is a wrong perception. So, how will it be corrected? My advice to the Government is to set up an empowered group that goes into the detail of each project to identify whether the problem is with the promoter. So, for example, if the Government does not give the environmental clearance or provide land, how do you hold the construction industry responsible for constructing that road? In another instance, there could be a case that the Government has provided these clearances, the land has been provided and the contractor does not construct for whatever reasons; but this can happen only if you go into the details of it. Unfortunately, no one has time for the details because details don’t get publicised.
I remember when I was the coal secretary, I would say let’s do the walking and let someone else do the talking. But I discovered post retirement that the easiest thing on earth to do is to talk.
When I was heading the Project Monitoring Group (PMG), when we were trying to fast-track projects worth Rs 10 billion, it did happen. In UPA, too, we did manage to clear projects worth Rs 5 trillion in 15 months. So it can happen; you must understand how it will happen. The PMG still exists. How about creating institutional track platforms to re-establish the communication between the one who has the problem and the one who is creating the problem? Sometimes, it can be magical. It is wrong to assume that people on the other hand do not want a solution to the problem. To me, it’s more of a communication problem than anything else.