The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has managed to save bank loans worth Rs 300,000 crore to the road sector from turning into non-performing assets (NPAs), Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari said here on Monday. He said 403 road projects involving Rs 300,000 crore were stalled when the NDA assumed power at the Centre in 2014. “The government managed to revive most of these projects, thus saving Rs 300,000-crore (loans) from turning into stressed assets. The government terminated projects worth Rs 500,000 crore to set an example for those delaying projects. Currently, there is not a single stalled project,” Gadkari claimed.
He emphasised that all the bottlenecks pertaining to land aquisitions, environment and forest clearances, and other bureaucratic hurdles had been removed and called for private investment in this sector.
Addressing the annual convention of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, the apex body promoting bilateral ties and fostering economic engagement between India and the USA, Gadkari lamented banking support for funding road projects and delays in financial closures and said his ministry would explore newer funding avenues.
In this regard, he revealed that a proposal for the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) going public to raise funds was under process, though he did not give any further details. “There are no constraints in raising funds. We are capable of generating resources through innovative ways, such as taking NHAI to public. Such a move will help the infrastructure projects source resources from the capital markets,” Gadkari said.
He pointed out that the government was looking not only for investments but also innovative technologies from investors, adding that US companies could bring efficient and cost-effective technologies.
Gadkari mentioned areas like ethanol-based fuel-efficient equipment, smart technologies for swift urban transport, etc., which could be marketed in India to reduce the huge import bills.
Discussing the importance of waterways, he said the cost of moving men and materials through inland water was only a fraction of the total haulage through rail and road, and the government was considering several such projects including cruises to organically link inland transport with tourism.
In the Sagarmala project, where the government plans to invest Rs 600,000 crore, the minister said industrial clusters would be set up near ports to help reduce transportation costs — both for domestic and international movements.
Speaking at a FICCI even on “Progressive Maharashtra 2017 & National Executive Committee Meeting on Transforming Infrastructure: Current Status and Impact on Growth of State Economy,” he said the government had granted approval to 26 irrigation projects in the state.
These would increase the irrigated area from 22 per cent to 40 per cent in two years, thus helping the farmers in suicide-prone areas of the state.
Further, schemes like Sagarmala, Port Development, Inland Waterways and four-lane highways would spur the state’s economic development, he said.
Gadkari said once the cruise terminal was launched in Mumbai after five yers, 950 cruises would be able to operate there, which would have a multiplier effect on other tourist infrastructure in Mumbai and rest of the state.