Uniform multi-modal transport policy on anvil: Gadkari

 To strengthen the country's transportation system, the government is working on a uniform multi-modal transport policy that would cover road and sea ways among others.

New Delhi: To strengthen the country's transportation system, the government is working on a uniform multi-modal transport policy that would cover road and sea ways among others.

Announcing this new policy, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari emphasised that there was a need to have an integrated approach for the country's transport system.

He also said that the government is committed to achieving a target of building 30 kilometres of roads and highways a day within two years, from the current rate of just about three kilometres a day.

The government is working to solve problems associated with land acquisition, creating a multi-modal transport policy and reducing the cost of capital to make investment in infrastructure viable, Gadkari said here during the India Economic Summit organised by WEF and CII.

"We need an integrated approach for the transport system? We are working on a uniform policy for multi-modal transport," he said, while adding that the country's infrastructure sector is grappling with problems and many road projects are stuck mainly on account of issues faced by the developers.

Acknowledging that there are problems with respect to model concession agreements for road projects, the minister said the government is working on having a revised agreement with international standards.

Besides the government is looking to strengthen the road network by increasing pace of building roads, Gadkari said while speaking at a session titled 'Mind the Trillion-Dollar Gap'.

The government has cleared 17 projects for building 2,000-plus kilometres of roads, given a golden handshake to concessionaires involved in some 4,000 kilometres worth of projects, and is working on resolving issues pertaining to some 1,800 kilometres, within five months of coming to power.

He admitted that land acquisition and environmental and forest clearances remain big hurdles and blamed the courts for passing "impracticable" rulings and the media for hyping up minor opposition to infrastructure projects, and asserted that India needs to create jobs and spur economic growth as much as it needs to preserve the environment.

Gadkari said that another hurdle in the way of building infrastructure was that the sector is administratively divided among several ministries different ministries are in charge of shipping, roads, airports and railways.

The government is working on a multi-modal transport policy in which waterways, roads as well as sea, rail and airports would be developed together, he added.

The government is also aware that the current model concession agreement is weighed against the concessionaire and discourages banks from lending, he added.

A committee has been mandated to recommend a model concession agreement at par with international norms, Gadkari said while adding he has also written to Prime Minister and Finance Minister on the need to reduce the cost of capital to encourage investment in infrastructure.

Speaking at the same session, Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Construction Company, said that the dispute settlement mechanism has failed, and instead of resolving issues it has become a means of assigning compensation for delays.

However, he said, the government is aware of this and is working to tackle the problem.

He said the numerous scams and allegations of scams that the previous government faced have created an unnecessary environment of fear-mongering where bureaucrats are afraid to make decisions and sectors such as infrastructure, where the government and private sector need to work together, have been paralysed.

Mark Spelman, Global Managing Director of UK-based Accenture said that confidence is high internationally about India and what the country needs to do is ensure predictability in policy, process and growth.

He suggested that the conversation should shift from inputs to outputs to focus on the results achieved through the efforts that have been put in. He said that many countries have infrastructure gaps, so India is competing with the rest of the world to attract investment.

Yorihiko Kojima, Chairman of Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation, also a Co-Chair of this Summit, said that infrastructure companies always invest cautiously in India, partly because different states have different laws and taxation regimes.

"Many companies made losses in India," he said, adding, however, that he is impressed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambition for the country.

He said of all the infrastructure India needs, electricity is the most important. India should use its abundant coal in addition to natural gas and renewable energy which is an important source though expensive.