Dr C P Joshi, Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways, recently exhorted the delegates of an infrastructure conference to participate in the infrastructure development with increased enthusiasm. “I would be very happy if you could come out with the possible reasons for the recent sudden slow down. As partners in this sector, it is imperative that we put our heads together and resolve issues, if any, that are hindering the progress,” he said.
Dr Joshi was speaking at India Infrastructure Summit 2012, organised by FICCI on the theme, ‘Accelerating Implementation of Infrastructure Projects’. He said that in order to accelerate implementation of major investment projects, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself had taken the initiative for an ‘Investment Tracking System’. He added that a detailed roadmap had been worked out for the flagship infrastructure projects in key sectors including the road sector as the Government was committed to abridge the huge infrastructure deficit.
He said that the serious and concerted efforts made by the Government post recession had led to continuous improvement of awards of projects from 639kms in 2008-09 to 3360kms in 2009-10 and further to 5082kms in 2010-11. “I am happy to inform you that the financial year 2011-12 has been an outstanding year for the Indian Road Sector. A record length of 7957kms of National Highways was awarded for strengthening/upgradation and improvement, and over 2200kms was completed during the year 2011-12,” he averred. “This year we have planned to award 9,500kms of National Highways for widening and upgradation”.
Dr Joshi said that MoRTH had recently got the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure for awarding the already completed projects in the NHAI domain on Operate-Maintain-Transfer (OMT) basis: “We have also planned to award road projects covering around 4,000kms for better maintenance primarily under OMT mode through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) route. This would not only help improve the existing roads with better maintenance leading to higher level of users’ satisfaction but also open a new line of business for OMT Concessionaires”.
Dr Joshi elaborated on the Government’s efforts towards ‘Engineering, Procurement and Construction’ (EPC Contract). He said, “With the active participation of Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance, we have evolved and formulated the EPC Contract Agreement document to enable the contractual framework for construction of highways in an efficient, economical and competitive environment. I am extremely glad to inform you that the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure has recently accorded its approval to the EPC Contract document. It will minimise, if not eliminate, the time and cost over-runs characteristic of the extant Item Rate Contracts. Further, this will enable a faster roll-out of projects with least cost and greater efficiency & flexibility encouraging Contractors to participate in such projects”.
Dr Joshi emphasised on the fact that the EPC mode of execution shall ensure implementation of the road projects to specified standards with a fair degree of certainty relating to costs and time while transferring the design & construction risks to the contractors. “We are planning to award 4,000km of Highway projects under the EPC mode contract this year. These projects will primarily aim at two-laning of single-laned roads on the existing right-of-way (RoW) thus not involving much Land Acquisition,” he promised.
Recognising the fact that tolling has been a bone of contention between different stakeholders for PPP projects, he said, “While several issues related to the quantum of tolling have been sorted out, we are trying to resolve the left over issues as well. To infuse efficiency, electronic toll collection (ETC) is being encouraged and facilitated by the Government. In this regard, the country’s first RFID Technology Based Electronic Toll collection Plaza at Chandimandir near Panchkula in Haryana had been inaugurated earlier this year. We are committed to make all toll plazas RFID compliant by January 2014”.
Expressing his awareness on the related disputes in the sector, the Minister for MoRTH said, “I am aware that around
र11,000cr have been stuck up in disputes in the roads and highways sector. The Government has taken serious measures to resolve these issues at the earliest by conforming to the report of the BK Chaturvedi Committee for faster resolution of pending disputes pertaining to National Highways Development Project (NHDP) works. An Independent Expert Group has also been constituted comprising former Chief Justice of High Court as the Head, former Deputy Comptroller & Auditor General, former Vigilance Commissioner and others”.
Dr Joshi added, “Recently, the National Road Safety Policy has been approved which includes promoting awareness, establishing road safety information data base, encouraging safer road infrastructure including application of intelligent transport systems, enforcement of safety laws, setting up of state road safety councils and district road safety committees, etc. Besides these, road safety has been made an integral part of road design at the planning stage, safety audits of selected stretches of National Highways/ Expressways are being conducted, safety standards of vehicles are being enforced categorically, and publicity campaigns on road safety awareness are being taken up”.
In order to track the progress of construction and maintenance of national highways, a state-of-the-art system is being developed to capture information, photos and videos directly from the site using tablet, notepad and their personal digital assistant or mobile phones and their retrieval on desktop and laptop by all concerned on real-time basis, he said. “This will make monitoring of projects more prompt and responsive at different levels”.