Friday , 14 August 2020

Interview with : Nitin Patel, Our contractors have to maintain the roads

You are providing good services and your roads are very good but there is immense traffic indiscipline in Gujarat. Whether it is the public, the transporters or the government officers, all are highly indisciplined on the state’s roads. An orientation for all of them seems to be necessary.

We are trying our best to bring in maximum discipline on our roads and are also trying to increase public awareness on the issue. People travel on Gujarat’s roads 24 hours in a big way in all types of vehicles. Moreover, Gujarat is a developed state – industrially and businesswise – and people come to it from all over the country bringing with them thousands of vehicles. About 25% port transportation of the country takes place from Gujarat’s various ports like Kandla port and Hazira port. All these ports receive huge trailers in huge quantities. That too contributes to traffic. In the cities, young children move around in vehicles and on two wheelers. Public awareness and self-discipline is needed too. We constantly provide guidance though. Our Transport Department takes its mobile vehicles to every village, every tehsil, every school and every college to show videos and bring about public awareness. We also place advertisements in various mediums and run campaigns.

Gujarat has one crore 25 lakh vehicles. And every month thousands of new vehicles get added to this number. So, as Gujarat’s prosperity rises, population rises and needs rise. And since people want better facilities, they opt for vehicles. All this too leads to indiscipline. This is the situation all over the country.

The efforts don’t seem to be bringing in good results.

That is sad because along with good NGOs of Gujarat like NCC, NSS, student groups, etc., we carry out various activities like giving training of three days each to small batches and encouraging people to follow discipline. We make traffic signals, over-bridges and under-bridges to reduce traffic. In the last five years, we have made more than 50 over and under bridges, including bridges on rivers in cities like Ahmedabad and Surat.

Also, our CM had decided a decade ago to encourage CNG for rickshaws and cars to reduce the consumption of petrol and diesel. This effort to reduce pollution is being followed till today. We have installed CNG pumping stations on a large scale so that people can get CNG Gas easily. But it is our bad luck that CNG prices have been on the rise just like diesel and petrol prices. Now people have begun reverting towards diesel. After spending about
40,000 to put CNG kit in their vehicles, if they find that CNG prices too are rising like petrol and diesel, they prefer to revert to the use of diesel. CNG and LPG prices must remain under control.

Also, the central government is unfair to Gujarat in this sector. CNG comes on Gujarat’s ports and the central government sends it to other states and cities like Delhi and Mumbai at lower prices from these ports. Yet, it charges higher prices from Gujarat for CNG and then, we too have to charge higher prices from our people and companies. Unlike diesel and petrol, the central government does not have a single uniform policy for CNG for the entire country. Gujarat is quite ahead in petroleum products too but it gets less royalty for oil, etc. We are doing so much for our people despite facing all these situations.

We are also starting a ferry boat service in Bhavnagar district which will go from Ghogha village till Bharuch. Work is on at high speed on the sea shore for a ferry boat service.

Gujarat has benefitted the most from Indian government’s JNNURM scheme though. It is because under the scheme you can avail benefit based on combined grants of Indian government, state government and the grant of the beneficiary. It is not just the Indian government that gave money under the scheme. Gujarat government and corporations were quick to allot their share of the money. So we could get good work done by combining all the three. We could work well in all those villages that were chosen in all the sectors under JNNURM for projects on drinking water, constructing roads, BRTS, keeping roads clean, providing houses to the poor, etc.

What are you doing for the Metro?

We are going to start Metro in Ahmedabad. The state government has formed a company and made an initial provision of
500cr in this year’s budget for it. Road alignment has taken place for it to quite an extent – from Ahmedabad city’s main area till Gandhinagar. Work will begin soon. We have invited various experts of the central government for their suggestions that can improve our planning. We need to organise seminars, etc., for people to tell us what they want and give us suggestions. The Metro will be from Gandhinagar to Ahmedabad and then within Ahmedabad too. Its uniqueness is that it will be elevated, on the ground level as well as underground (in Ahmedabad’s old city).

Not much has happened in Gujarat for waterways. Are you planning anything in this regard?

We are studying how we can utilise the huge network of Narmada canal for waterways. This 450km long canal begins from Sardar Sarovar Dam and goes till Kuchchh, Saurashtra and Rajasthan. It can store 40,000 cusec water. We have built it till a height of 121.15 metre but half the work of increasing its height further – till 138 metres – remains. The central government has not granted us the permission to put a gate on it soon despite we having rehabilitated people. Our CM has written letters but the permission hasn’t come. Right now, we are not able to avail even half the benefits of Narmada.

We keep a condition before the contractors – if the roads get damaged during the contract period they themselves will have to manage the roads.

We are also starting a ferry boat service in Bhavnagar district which will go from Ghogha village till Bharuch. Work is on at high speed on the sea shore for a ferry boat service. A road will cover 250-300km of the sea and will save time and expenditure. Money has already been allocated for this project in this year’s budget. The jetty will be constructed till the place the steamer has to be taken. It will be a huge project.

Are you encouraging cycling in your state?

We are trying to do so as cycling doesn’t lead to pollution, doesn’t consume petrol, saves energy and safeguards environment. We are making newer roads for it. For e.g., we have made a cycle track adjoining a model road that we are developing in Ahmedabad. We are encouraging people to take to cycling on a bigger scale.

Your Expressways are among the best in the country. How? Are you strict with your people? Do you pull them up regularly? Do you punish them if the work is not good? How do you achieve this quality?

Our work is better than the others, our maintenance is better than the others. We take care that the design being made is strong. While it is being implemented, we ensure that the material being used is good. And we keep a condition before the contractors in two categories – one for three years and the other for five years. The condition is that if the road gets damaged in the time frame of a contractor’s contract (according to the category he falls in), he himself will have to maintain it.

We ask for accountability. We don’t leave them free once the construction is done. Also, we ministers move in the entire state, so do our MLAs, IAS officers and the entire department. We all take the responsibility for the project. If we find even slight weakness somewhere, we take immediate steps to rectify that.

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