With the objective of boosting growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met the secretaries of nine economic ministries to outline a plan to put infrastructure development in top gear over the next two years.
At the meeting with the secretaries of roads and highways, civil aviation, shipping, power, telecom, railways, petroleum, coal, and industry, planning secretary Sindhushree Khullar made a presentation on targets for different sectors. She spoke of bottlenecks faced during the UPA regime and mooted the idea of a monitoring unit in the Planning Commission to remove these.
She also stressed on swift, time-bound clearance of projects and easing of environmental norms to ensure projects take off, government sources said. “The focus of the presentation was speedy development of smart cities, ports, roads, special economic zones and corridors (like DMRC). Greater infrastructure development by way of building more airports and ports, and having better connectivity through the railways was discussed,” said a source.
The infrastructure sector is a focus area for the Modi regime, and projects worth over Rs. 50,000 crore have already been cleared in the two months the government has been in power.
Construction of roads remains a top priority with the Centre setting a target of awarding projects for the construction of 8,500 km of highways this fiscal, against 9,638 km in 2013-14. However, the UPA government had managed to award projects for just 3,169 km last year.
Of the 8,500 km of highways, 3,500 km would be PPP projects and the remaining would be implemented on the EPC (engineering procurement construction) model where the government provides 100% funding.
The target for actual construction of highways in 2014-15 has been set at 6,300 km.
As many as 189 highway projects with a total cost of around Rs. 1,80,000 crore are currently stuck due to problems such as land acquisition issues, clearance delays, etc.
Since availability of power is critical for infrastructure development, issues related to power generation and transmission projects were discussed. “It was pointed out that the biggest challenge today is not power generation but transmission,” a senior government official said.
Building gas pipelines to ensure projects don’t suffer from fuel shortage also came up.
The official said, presently, over Rs. 1 lakh crore of investment in gas-based power capacity is suffering due to shortage of gas.
For the railways, it was proposed that 300 km of new track should be laid in the current fiscal.
The Indian Railways laid 450 km of new track in 2013-14, short of the targeted 500 km.
For the aviation sector, the plan panel proposed lowering the investment target from Rs. 1,008 crore in the previous fiscal to Rs. 934 crore this year, since investment realisation was just about 55% of the target in 2013-14.
A plan to develop airports in non-metro cities was talked about.
Other issues that came up for discussion included mobilising coal from one location to another, increasing rural tele-density and providing undersea fibre optic connectivity to the Andaman, Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands.
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