Infrastructure is the flavour of the season

Vijay K Saluja
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences- New Delhi,
Ex Chief Engineer[civil], New Delhi Municipal Council

Infrastructure is the flavour of the season in the kitchen of UPA Govt..Right from the PMO to Ministry of Transport Planning Commission, State Govt to local bodies, every wing of the concerned govt department, is now assiduously taking various steps to augment the infrastructure in the country. Infrastructure broadly covers Airports, Highways, Ports, Power, Railways & Telecom sectors.

It has been realized that the world class infrastructure is the key to a globally competitive economy & achievement of sustained double digit growth by India will only be possible if the infrastructure of the country achieves quantum growth.

There the Government has taken various steps to achieve the desired objectives.In fact,this is the priority of the government.That is why,the Committee on Infrastructure[CoI] under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister was constituted on 31st August,2004 which was subsequently substituted by the Cabinet Committee of Infrastructure[CCI} on July 6,2009 again under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. The mandate of this Committee is to review policies & projects across various sectors of infrastructure..

To supplement the efforts there is a full fledged secretariat for infrastructure in the Planning Commission which is also involved in initiating policies that would ensure time bound creation of well, planned, designed & executed infrastructure/ It will match with international standards. Also explore & facilitate maximizing the role of public-private partnerships[PPP] and as well monitor progress of key infrastructure projects to ensure that established targets are achieved.

No of projects in various sectors are in the pipeline & at various stages of executions at Central, State & Local levels.

As highways & roads are one of the most visible sector used by everyone, it is prudent for the government to give it a pride of place in giving priority in allocation of funds to this sector & the same is being done, too.

Apart from allocation of funds by the Govt, infrastructure Fund with an allocation of Rs 50,000 crores has also been mooted at the initiative of the Planning Commission & Deepak Parekh expert group is studying & recommending various measures so that this fund is used by the road & shipping sector in proper time without slacking of their activities.

A no of schemes in road sector all already at various stages of execution.Some of these are East-West corridor, North- South corridor & then the PMSRY.

The high growth in infrastructure is considered necessary to target 10% economic growth in the XII th Plan[2012-2017] therefore huge funds are needed for the development of infrastructure.

During an infrastructure summit in Delhi, the prime Minister announced a revision of the investment target to 1trillion dollar in the XII th Plan compared to 500billion $ in the current Five year Plan.

But having considered all the efforts of the PMO, Planning Commission & the Ministry of Transport to mobilize funds & thereafter allocating to various executing organizations, it is also very imperative for the country & the Government to expect that all these funds are used judiciously for the development of quality infrastructure in the country.

However,there are big gaps between expectations & realities.

Let us face it-there is corruption,leakage of funds, ill-planned/designed schemes, badly executed with poor quality & thus less durability.

Recent arrests of two senior-level officers of National Highways Authority of India speaks for itself the dilution of values, ethics, integrity & professionalism in this vital area of development. There are examples galore of kick-backs in the award of contracts, huge delays in execution of works-one of the glaring example are works in JNNURM & other highway projects.

It is imperative for the PMO & the Planning Commission to as well induct into the system ETHICAL –LEADERSHIP, PROFESSIONAL INTEGRITY & GOOD GOVERNANCE OF PROJECTS.

Then, the returns will be much better, quicker & durable as these will be of good quality.