Prime minister Manmohan Singh said that for a large road building programme, "Efficiency, economy, competition and transparency are vital touchstones that should be used for judging our level of success"
New Delhi: Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday called for transparency in awarding highway projects to eliminate the possibility of favouritism or crony capitalism, reports PTI.
"It is necessary to demonstrate that the award, construction and operation of these (highways) projects is based on a fair and transparent approach which eliminates any suspicion of favouritism or what might be described as crony capitalism," he said at the conference of Public Private Partnership (PPP) in National Highways.
He further said that for a large road building programme, "Efficiency, economy, competition and transparency are vital touchstones that should be used for judging our level of success. These are especially important when we deal with the private sector.
"We must remember that these are public projects where public interest must be foremost in our mind," he added.
The government plans to double investment in infrastructure projects to $1 trillion to achieve a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 9% during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
"...it goes without saying that it seems a very challenging task, but I am convinced that our economy has the resilience to live up to challenges that lie ahead," he added.
The prime minister further said that the government has been successful in attracting large volumes of private investment in the road sector.
Contract awards exceeded about 4,800km in 2010-11 and the road transport and highways ministry is well poised to award of 7,300km this year to fulfil government's resolve to build 20km a day, he said.
The national highways with a total length of over 71,000km serve as the arterial network of the country.
However, the flagship National Highways Development Programme has only addressed about 25,000km so far.
In the recent meeting of the full Planning Commission, the government had endorsed the proposal of the road ministry to take up a large programme for developing the national highways in far flung areas.
At present, there are about 20,000km of national highways which have only a single lane.
"A time-bound programme for widening these roads to two-lane standards would be taken up through turnkey contracts that would ensure speedy and cost-effective outcomes," the prime minister said asking the ministry to accelerate this programme to increase the reach of the NHDP across the country.
Talking about the financing constraints faced by infrastructure projects, Mr Singh said the Finance Ministry is also taking the initiative to set up Infrastructure Debt Fund (IDF) to enhance the flow of the much needed long-term debt in infrastructure projects.
"There are, however, areas where private investment can be invited, based on affordable user charges with some capital subsidy as necessary," he adding, "I have often said PPP is private profit in service of public at large."
He said the NHAI, which deals mostly with the roads that can attract private capital, has made PPP the preferred mode for most of its projects.
PPP projects take much less time to complete and the government does not have to bear cost overruns, he said.
"This will not only enable us to leverage our limited public resources but also improve efficiency of service delivery," Mr Singh said.
India has attained the second rank globally among developing countries in attracting private investment for infrastructure projects.
Mr Singh said that the government has been encouraging the use of standard documents and processes to streamline and expedite decision-making process by the concerned authorities in a manner that is fair, transparent and competitive.
"This approach has contributed significantly to the recent strides in rolling out a large number of PPP projects in the highways sector," he said.
He said that emphasis on transparency and competition in the award of PPP projects in the roads sector which has "led to a very robust and competitive bidding that has saved very large sums for the exchequer by limiting the capital subsidy or enhancing the revenue share".
The letter was one among some 22 that the government published on the website of the Department of Personnel and Training.
A few days ago, news of a letter published on the website of the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) received much media attention, because it labelled Anna Hazare as 'mad' and 'communal'. According to the reply to an RTI query by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the letter was published on the orders of the officer on special duty (OSD) to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
"In the letter written by Shri Mohammed Aasim Khan, it has been alleged that Anna Hazare is communal. The above letter was posted on the website of the 'Lokpal' as per the directions issued by the OSD to the honourable finance minister," reads the reply Mr Agrawal received from the DOPT.
The reply of the principal information officer says, "only those suggestions were uploaded on the website for which orders were given by the higher authorities."
The said letter, written in Hindi, created a stir, as it termed Mr Hazare's campaign as a "disruptive movement that seeks to displace institutionalised democracy with mobocracy". It also accused Mr Hazare of being mad and communal. This letter was among a bunch of letters written by others like Arvind Kejriwal, Loksatta party chief and general secretary of the Foundation for Democratic Reforms Jayaprakash Narayan and Delhi Lokayukta Justice Mohammad Sarin.
On the Lokpal Bill itself, the principal information officer yhe DOPT has received 706 written proposals in hard copy and 14,875 suggestions by email. However, the "suggestions received are yet to be examined by the section concerned," the PIO told Mr Agrawal.
Mr Agrawal has also demanded a detailed response from the office of the finance minister, along with relevant correspondence and file notings regarding the publication of the letter. He has also filed a first appeal, as not all his questions were answered by the PIO. In his first appeal application, he says, "It is not clear how the OSD to the union finance minister could intervene in an aspect being handled by an officer of the DOPT as referred to in the response to the query."