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No beating about the bush.
The road & transport ministry has an ambitious plan of building 20 kilometres of road per day. RPN Singh, minister of state (MoS) for road & transport speaks with Moneylife’s Aaron Rodrigues about the ministry’s plans
Aaron Rodrigues (ML): Do you think that the road targets set out for FY10 can be met?
RPN Singh (RS): They (the road targets) are definitely possible; we wouldn’t have set out the targets (otherwise). We had planned to make 20 kilometres of road per day when we came into government in May. We have begun this ambitious plan. Earlier, we were making two kilometres per day, when we took over the ministry in May—my senior minister (Kamal Nath, minister for road & transportation) and I came out with a work plan of 12,000 kilometres of roads, which entails about $2 billion of expenditure. The government doesn’t have that kind of money, so we are going to be doing it through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) toll. Around 60% of our total plans are going to be (based on the) BOT toll module.
ML: Do you think that private companies will match up with the rapid road-addition plans of the government?
RS: We do believe that private players will match up (to our plans). Our ministry is planning to launch a public-private partnership project. In fact, the concessionaires and contractors have had some misgivings about the model concession agreement (MCA) which was the way the bids were called for. The prime minister recommended that we tweak the MCA. There was a panel set up by PK Chakravorty, which looked into the matters and problems faced by concessionaires and private players, and we changed the process of inviting tenders. Mr Chakravorty gave his suggestions which were accepted by the Cabinet and (they have) already been put into play. This has lead to great participation by private players in our projects. In fact, all of our projects have been taken up on the BOT toll module.
ML: What is the status on the agreement with the Malaysian government to build roads in India?
RS: We are not having any kind of deals with any government. We are getting it (our investments) through public partnerships and foreign investment. My senior minister has conducted road shows all over the world regarding how the country is looking to get its funding even from abroad, and we are quite certain that we will get a lot of money coming in from external sources.
ML: Do you see an improvement in land acquisition after the setting up of special land acquisition units?
RS: We are just compiling all the exact figures of the land acquisitions in the period since we took over from May (2009). We have put up 10 units in (various) states, out of which 192 special land acquisitions in the country (are) already underway. In a larger context, compared to the land that was acquired during the last four years of the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, we have in the last six months acquired double that amount of land or are in the process of acquiring the same. But we still need a quicker way of getting land and we are looking at making the process more proactive.
ML: Have any new projects been identified for road development?
RS: My senior Cabinet minister is working on expressways. There will be a separate expressway authority. So we are looking into expressways which our country needs. We are also looking into mega-projects which need huge investments, where not only Indian private contractors will be involved, even people from overseas would come in.
ML: Are there any new updates on the pilot project to be initiated on the automatic toll concession systems proposed to be implemented on Indian roads?
RS: We have got some pilot projects going on. We will be looking at them and also look into the possibilities where there is connectivity from one place to another. There are four-five (automatic toll concession) systems in the world, out of which three are suitable for our country.