The Prime Minister is set to announce highly ambitious targets for power, road, coal etc. Will he succeed?
Prime minister Narendra Modi would review performance of all ministries related with infrastructure in first week of September, say media reports. During the review meeting, the union government is also set to revise targets for nine infrastructure ministries, power, road transport, shipping, civil aviation, coal, petroleum, railways, telecom and renewable energy.
Last month, the PM met with secretaries of these ministries to review targets of each ministry. During the meeting, Sindhushree Khullar, secretary of Planning Commission, made a 15-page presentation on performance of core infrastructure ministries during 2013-14 and the targets for FY15. According to CNBC TV18, Modi has fixed ambitious targets for each of the sectors. Are these targets feasible? What are the impediments to achieving them?
Coal production: 562mt vs 463mt of last year. Target: 21.4%+
Against the target of 483 million tonnes (mt), the coal production in India actually reached only 463 million tonnes last year. Part of it was attributed to the cyclone Phalin and the monsoon flooding. Progress has been hampered by land acquisition problems and dealing with environmental clearances and so, the chances of reaching a target of 562 million tonnes seems remote.
State-run Coal India Ltd (CIL), the world's largest coal miner, sits on the world's third largest estimated reserves of coal, in the region of some 250 billion tonnes and yet fell 20mt short of its mining target of 482mt in 2013-14. Coal India directly controls, as a holding company, seven collieries and produces 85% of the fuel mined in the country.
According to media reports, over 60,000 mining clearances are pending with various State Governments. Karnataka heads the list with 19,497, followed by Rajasthan at 13.893, erstwhile Andhra Pradesh 7,691, Madhya Pradesh 4,680, Gujarat at 4,517, and Jharkhand at 4,409. Indian mines need to be modernised too.
Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Mines, Steel and Labour therefore, faces the enormous task of clearing all these 63,395 mineral concession applications which are pending with various State Governments. In sorting out the mess, several ministries are involved. How can the Government go about doing this huge task?
Rural Electrification: FY15 15,000 villages against 12,468. Up 20%
During FY15, the government plans to cover 15,000 more villages under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) project. This is an increase of about 20% compared with last year's coverage of 12,468 villages. How easy is this? Given that the government is cash-strapped, it remains to be seen how this would be achieved.
Road project target for FY15 8,500kms against 3169kms. Up 67%
This is one of the most ambitious targets of the Modi government. During FY15, the union government is planning to award projects of 8,500kms of road length. Last year, road projects for only 3,169kms were awarded as against a target of 9,683kms. The main reason was lukewarm response from bidders, problems of land acquisition and failure of public-private partnership (PPP) mode during 2012-13 and 2013-14.
During 2013-14, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had awarded 17 projects for a total length of 1,435.84kms of which two projects are on PPP mode. About 21 projects were bid out by NHAI through PPP mode, but none of the projects received any response.
Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has said that he is trying to take forward road construction projects worth over Rs1.80 lakh crore rupees that are now being stalled by removing various hurdles. Gadkari said there have been huge Non-performing Assets (NPAs) in the banks relating to such road projects amounting nearly to Rs2.40 lakh crore. So, where will the new funding come from, to even complete stalled projects?
In all, the Modi government has set very ambitious targets for the infrastructure sector. Unfortunately, the government can no longer do it. It has no money, no expertise and no accountability. Who will do it, then? The sector is full of debt-laden businesses, run by crony capitalists. Public sector banks are weighed down by bad loans given to infrastructure companies. Where will Modi find additional money to pour into infrastructure? That apart, the rules set by the earlier regime that have hobbled infrastructure companies remain. There have to be fundamental changes in law, bidding process, monitoring and so on. Unless such changes happen, targets set from the ramparts of Red Fort will mean nothing.
Jet Airways' Boeing 777—300, operating flight 9W—228 from Mumbai to Brussels and onwards to Newark, plunged to 29,000 feet from 34,000 feet while traversing on the busy air route to Europe last week
In a major scare, a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai to Brussels, carrying around 280 passengers, plunged 5,000 feet while overflying Turkish airspace last week as the commander was asleep and the co-pilot busy with the iPad containing flight information.
Terming it as a “serious incident”, India's aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has suspended the two pilots and initiated a probe into the incident.
It has also set up a three-member team to review the airline’s flight training programmes and facilities following the incident last Friday, official sources said, adding the team has been asked to submit their report by 31st August.
DGCA has directed the airline to come forward with all related reports, as well as the records of the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) within this week, they said.
The incident occurred when the Boeing 777—300, operating flight 9W—228 from Mumbai to Brussels and onwards to Newark, plunged from 34,000 feet to 29,000 feet, while traversing on the busy air route to Europe.
As the aircraft descended, the air traffic control at Ankara sent an emergency message to the aircraft asking the pilots why they had deviated from the assigned flight path and directed them to climb up to the designated height immediately.
Both pilots were summoned by DGCA on Wednesday for questioning.
While the commander said he was on “controlled rest”, implying a short nap inside the cockpit, which is allowed by flight operation procedures, the co-pilot told the regulator that she was working on her iPad or the electronic flight bag which has all aircraft documents loaded on to it, the sources said.
Immediately after the Ankara ATC message, the co-pilot woke up the commander who restored the height of the plane.
Confirming the incident, an airline spokesperson said Jet Airways has initiated an internal inquiry into the matter.
“The airline is also extending all co—operation in the matter to the DGCA by providing all necessary assistance for the inquiry. Safety is of paramount importance to Jet Airways as is also the welfare of our guests and crew and the airline will always take appropriate steps to ensure the same,” the spokesperson said.
The Modi government decided to review the pricing formula keeping in mind public interest and recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, oil minister Pradhan said
The Indian government on Wednesday said it will come out with a new natural gas pricing formula by 30th September keeping in mind the interest of investors and public.
Replying to questions in Rajya Sabha, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government decided to review the pricing formula keeping in mind public interest and recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
The Minister did not share details, but said the decision will be taken keeping in mind interest of investors and public and the formula will be announced by 30th September.
The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had in December last year decided to price all domestic gas from 1 April 2014 according to a formula suggested by the Rangarajan Committee.
The formula was notified on 10th January but before a new rate could be announced, general elections were declared and the issue was left for the new government to decide.
The new government on 25th June decided to defer the implementation till September-end to hold wider consultations.
The existing gas pricing under new exploration licensing policy (NELP) was approved in 2007 and was to remain valid up to March 2014.
For reviewing the formula, the government constituted a committee under C Rangarajan in May 2012 and based on the panel's recommendation, Domestic Natural Gas Pricing Guidelines, 2014 was notified in January this year.
The Rangarajan formula would lead to doubling of natural gas prices to $8.4 per million British thermal unit, an increase that would jack up urea production cost, electricity tariff and CNG rates.