Exclusive: Will appoint oversight committee from pvt sector, says Gadkari
At the Infra-Nirbhar roads webinar on Thursday, roads minister Nitin Gadkari fumed at cement cartelisation and faulty DPR preparations and set a roadmap for stepping up road construction pace and quality in surface material with innovative mixes. Bureaucrats and private practitioners shared the platform and provided unique perspectives on why it’s an exciting time for road contractors.
Nitin Gadkari, who is the Union Minister for both Road Transport & Highways as well as for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, revealed his plans on February 25 to appoint a committee from the private sector to focus on quality construction, cost reduction, and designing.
At the Infra-Nirbhar roads webinar on Thursday, roads minister Nitin Gadkari fumed at cement cartelisation and faulty DPR preparations and set a roadmap for stepping up road construction pace and quality in surface material with innovative mixes. Bureaucrats and private practitioners shared the platform and provided unique perspectives on why it’s an exciting time for road contractors. _______ Nitin Gadkari, who is the Union Minister for both Road Transport & Highways as well as for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, revealed his plans on February 25 to appoint a committee from the private sector to focus on quality construction, cost reduction, and designing. Speaking at the Infra-Nirbhar online webinar series organised by Construction World and Swarajya magazines, the minister in a virtual interaction with Pratap Padode, Editor-in-Chief, Construction World, named industry experts whom he would like to include on the committee. Gadkari said he holds the preparation of detailed project reports (DPR) largely responsible for road accidents. Gadkari fumed at what he termed “cartelisation” in the cement industry that has hampered and raised cost━and road projects, too, have had to paid a price. Here is the interview. Pratap Padode: Of the total investment in the National Infrastructure Pipeline, around 25% would probably come from private capital. It is important to attract private capital and that is your asset monetisation plan as well. What about the projects stuck in dispute resolution? There is a need for a smooth and seamless take-off from here as well. Nitin Gadkari: In the case of arbitration, if you look at NHAI’s performance in the last six months, we are moving fast, and are formulating the mechanism. We are in the process of resolving the issues, with several issues already sorted. As far as international expectations are concerned, this is an important aspect and we need to improve this. Our system does require change and we are constantly pursuing it. We are making a lot of innovative and transformative changes in the administrative set up of NHAI. Even with regards to people from the state government and other departments, looking at the system starting from that point as well, a lot of changes are required. And, we are working towards it. Almost 18% of the Rs 111 trillion NIP spending, ie, Rs 20 trillion, has been identified for the road sector in the next five years. This is given that the private capital related initiatives such as TOT, Invits, and asset management will contribute a significant part of the Rs 20 trillion. And, we are working on the key reforms that we plan to attract in the private capital. An amount of Rs 180 billion is targeted through asset monetisation, Invits and TOT. We have several good models. One of the models that I am pursuing with the banks is that we monetise the roads━for which construction is completed━for 30 years, and then the bank monetises it and gives us the money. While money is not the main concern, the problem in the system is people who are negative and do not take decisions. We need to bring in transparency, time bound decision-making processes, a corruption-free system, and quality consciousness. And time is important. Delays are going to be a big problem, and so, we have to focus on faster decision-making. However, there are some good people as well who are contributing. They are working day and night and they are the reason we are achieving the goal of 40 km per day. It is not only my credit, but it is for all the engineers and officers, who are working as a team. And it is this teamwork, because of which we are getting results. So change is a continuous process. For a good future, we need this continuous process of socio-economic transformation where we make administrative reforms and change the rules and regulations. PP: Design of roads is one of the major reasons that have caused India to drop down in the ranking on safety. Now that you are focusing on the auditing of roads and highways awards, as well so that you can benchmark who is doing better work than the other in terms of quality and design, can this [focus] inspire the industry to do their best? NG: As per the new technology, designs and innovation, after my six years of experience, I am coming to the conclusion that people are not going to change in the present system. I recently had a long discussion with the secretary and I am going to have a discussion with the NHAI chairman as well. We are going to appoint a committee from the private sector, for which we have already selected some names. We have requested Mr Venkataramanan from L&T, and Mr Sabnis from Maharashtra PWD to be part of this committee. If you know of some good experts who are outstanding and intelligent, and can conduct a research study at international standards, do tell us. We are going to formulate a body [of experts] to focus on quality construction, cost reduction, and designing. This can be an independent separate section under NHAI. We will offer them all types of facilities, and they can work full-time and even advise us. We will adopt their suggestions, on the basis of which decisions will be made. Road safety audit is also a major aspect. We face problems with the DPR. We need to take stern action against people who are making the DPRs. They are the culprits behind road accidents and related deaths. From signages to safety measures to all types of road markings, we need to change all of these to match international standards. PP: You have stated that steel and cement prices are rising and therefore the industry is getting tough, which is true. You have allowed a lot more supply to come in, and have also mentioned that it should meet quality guidelines of the Bureau of Indian Standards. But there should be some process by which this quality is definitively tested before being used. Otherwise the quality of our infrastructure could suffer. NG: We want to break the monopoly of the big people. I am against steel and cement cartelisation. I will request the industry to use soil stabilisation, plastic fibre in concrete, steel fibre in concrete, and reduce the usage of cement in concrete. There was a time when I was educating and instructing the ministry to make cement roads. But following the cartelisation and the attitude of this industry, I decided not to insist on making cement roads. And there is an increase in cost for no reason. Similar has been the case with steel. I am in constant contact with the finance ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) regarding the export of pallets and iron ore. We should stop the current export of 12 million tonnes of pallets. And if the industry does not listen, we need to take regulated authority for prices to be fixed. Otherwise, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and Paradhan Mantri Awas Yojana will face a crucial problem. MSMEs, too, are facing problems due to the rise in steel prices because that is the core material. So we need to find a way out, otherwise it will be difficult for the small [industries] to survive.