“At the time, when the NDA government came to power in 2014, there were only 92,000 kms of national highways in the country, which has gone up to 1.15 lakh kms as on date. We have fixed a target of constructing 2 lakh kms of national highways, which will be completed by the year 2022. During the last three years, we have constructed more than 23,000 kms of national highways and the present rate of construction of national highways is on an average 24 kms per day,” said Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minsiter of State for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Chemicals & Fertilizers during his interaction with Deepak Kumar Rath, Editor, Uday India. Excerpts:
Former American President John F Kennedy once said: American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because America has good roads. Against this backdrop, what is your ministry doing with regard to road development?
Atal Behari Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister of India, had once stated that “Sadak hai toh gati hai aur gati hai to pragati hai” (If there are roads, there is speed and if there is speed, there is progress), which is analogous to the saying of John F. Kennedy. The national highway network tremendously improves the public transport and supply chain network of a country. At the time, when NDA government came to power in 2014, there were only 92,000 kms of national highways in the country, which has gone up to 1.15 lakh kms as on date. We have fixed a target of constructing 2 lakh kms of national highways, which will be completed by the year 2022. During the last three years, we have constructed more than 23,000 kms of national highways and the present rate of construction of national highways is on an average 24 kms per day. The previous UPA government had failed in implementing the PPP model of road construction. The present NDA government has simplified the different categories of PPP models including BOT (Toll), BOT (Annuity) and Hybrid Annuity Models to expedite the pace of construction of national highways.
Which big companies are working through PPP model and how much have they invested till now?
Under PPP model 100 per cent investment is done by the company/concessionaire (except Hybrid Annuity Model, where 40 per cent cost of project is contributed by the Ministry), which they recover through toll collection depending upon the Terms of Agreement. As on date, the major companies working on PPP model include M/s Qingdao Construction Engineering Group Co. Ltd. with Skylark Securities Pvt. Ltd., M/s Sanjose Korea with MET, M/s Isolux Corsan, Spain with Soma India, M/s Longines China, etc. apart from major domestic companies like M/s L&T, M/s IF&FS Transportation Networks Ltd., M/s Sadbhav Infrastructure Project Ltd, M/s KMC Constructions Ltd., M/s IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd., M/s GMR Infrastructure Ltd. etc.
Before coming to power, the BJP had promised to provide jobs to 2 crore people. Road is one sector that has tremendous scope in employment generation. So, how much jobs have been created by your ministry in the last three years and what is the future plan?
This is a very important question. The government is working on various ambitious projects including Chardham Road Project, where more than 400 engineers and thousands of ITI-trained youths and laboures are working on this project alone. As of now, 1471 projects covering 44,775 kms of length with a project cost of Rs. 3.65 lakh crore are under implementation, which is going to generate huge employment opportunities.
Are foreign companies also investing in road development projects through ‘Make in India’ initiative?
India is one country in the world that receives the highest FDI in different sectors. Ministry of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping allows 100 per cent FDI in its projects. As aresult, large Indian and foreign companies want to invest in highways, shipping and Sagarmala projects, where many a time our Indian companies beat foreign companies in competitive biddings.
The government is working towards efficient transport system in the country. In this regard, national waterways project, named Sagarmala, has been launched. Can you tell us about its development?
Waterway is one sector that has been ignored for a long period. After the NDA government came into power, 111 inland waterways, including five existing ones, have been declared national waterways under the National Waterways Act, 2016. Out of this, DPR in case of eight waterways has been prepared, while for another 24 waterways, it is under progress. Under Jal Marg Vikas Project on National Waterways No. 1, work has been started for augmentation of waterway from Haldia to Allahabad, which also includes the construction of Multi-Modal Terminal in Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia.
Tenders have also been invited for introduction of water taxi service from Wazirabad to Fatehpur Jatt on the 16 km stretch of Yamuna River in Delhi-NCR region, for which the work will be started subject to approval of National Green Tribunal. The waterways transport is not only cost-effective as compared to road and rail but also environment friendly.
What decisions have you taken for the development of various ports of India?
Ans. Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has the firm belief that development of ports will definitely lead to development of country. Keeping this in view, the ministry is implementing an ambitious Sagarmala Pariyojana, which will connect the different ports of the country with Railways and national highways to realise the Prime Minister’s dream of port-led development.
We have seen that it takes minimum seven-eight days in unloading the cargo from freight containers. What steps have you taken to reduce this time frame?
Ministry of Shipping has undertaken various projects for mechanization of ports. Recently, one such project has been completed in Kandla, where installation of international standard equipment has resulted in 25 per cent savings of time in cargo handling. Kandla is the only port in the country that has touched the 100 MMT of cargo handling, which is likely to reach 110 MMT during the current year.
Do you face difficulties in land acquisition in the states not governed by the BJP?
I have come to know that there are some problems in land acquisition in states like Bihar and West Bengal, which is not in the interest of development in these states. Most of the highway projects in these states are delayed considerably. Here, I must say that development of road infrastructure in any state will lead to development of that state and people as well.
You also have chemical and fertilizer ministry under you. When will our country be self-reliant in urea production?
The total consumption of urea in the country is approximately 320 lakh metric tone (LMT), out of which approximately 245 LMT is produced in the country. The remaining requirement is met through imports. As on date, the government is providing more than Rs. 700 subsidy per 50 kg bag of urea. Recently, the government has also decided for revival of five old urea plants with an average capacity of 13 LMT, which are likely to be functional by 2020. After operationalisation of these plants, the country will be fully self-sufficient in respect of urea.
There is tremendous potential in bio-natural gas sector, but India could harness only 5 per cent of this green energy. Also we are far behind in production of organic fertilizer. What are you doing in this regard?
Our government is targeting to supply approximately 10 per cent of the total fertilizers consumption in the form of organic fertilizers and the Department of Fertilizers is working on it.
Recently, shoe was hurled at you during the Patidar movement. Election is round the corner in Gujarat, how do you see this movement?
Patidar Aandolan is run by a handful of people who are instigated by Congress Party.
Was removal of Aanandiben Patel from CM post due to the Patidar movement?
The change of Mrs. Aanandiben Patel as Chief Minister of Gujarat has nothing to do with Patidar movement. This Patidar movement is being run by a handful of people instigated by Congress, which is evident from the fact that the several people, who are involved in this movement, became Congress candidates in local municipality elections. This is clearly a political agenda and the person involved in throwing shoe on me is also a part of this vendetta.
BJP ruled Gujarat for 20 long years continuously. Don’t you think the anti-establishment factor may affect your party in the elections?
In Gujarat during last 20 years of BJP rule, we have done everything we said. The government has tirelessly worked for empowering of the poor, farmers, youth and women of the state. The water of Narmada has reached to 7,000 villages of Gujarat through a network of 1,15,000 km pipeline. This has solved not only the drinking water problem in the far-flung areas of the state but also has augmented the irrigation facilities for the farmers.
The central government has launched GST from July 1st and the textile mill owners are dissatisfied with this move. Don’t you think GST may backfire on the BJP in the forthcoming elections?
GST is all set to be a game changer for the economy. I agree that there will be some issues in implementation of GST but the government is aware of it and all such issues will be taken care of. Here, I emphasise that GST and demonetisation are the biggest economic reforms of the country that have been done for the welfare of the people.
You belong to the Patidar community. Will we see you as a young CM candidate in the upcoming elections?
No. Not at all. BJP doesn’t believe in community or caste-based politics. I am busy in discharging the responsibility given to me by the party. I firmly believe that in Gujarat we will again go to polls under the leadership of present Chief Minister Shri Vijay Rupani.