Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari talks to Pragya Kaushika about the recent Supreme Court ban on diesel taxis, tackling air pollution, better road connectivity in hilly regions and the row over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees.
You have looked into the grievances voiced by taxi drivers and owners with all-India Tourist Permits (AITPs). How do you plan to address their concerns?
I believe that if the government has given its approval for drivers with AITPs to ply across the country, then no one can object to it. It would not be feasible for us to tell them that diesel taxis cannot cross a certain state. This ban could work only on state-specific taxis but not on those with permits. It is not legal to ask them not to ply in a city because of the fuel they use.
Have you found a solution to this problem?
Firstly, we are working on a new technology that will significantly reduce the cost of converting diesel taxis to CNG. Secondly, we are working on making AITP vehicles run on dual fuel. They can switch to any fuel that is suitable as per the state’s norms. But this arrangement is specific to vehicles with national permits, as they cannot change vehicles as per the state’s rules. Thirdly, we will introduce Euro VI emission standards by 2020. We have approved Rs 70,000 crore for the plan.
You spoke of the trouble that even a government agency has to face to get clearances for various projects. Are you working on a policy to ensure a smooth process for such approvals?
I believe the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has to take a call on this. Unless the PMO steps in and takes a decision, it would be hard to improve the system.
Many religious structures have stalled national highway projects, causing losses to the exchequer and inconveniencing people. What steps is your ministry taking to solve this issue?
A project director has been appointed to take care of national highways. He has been directed to make a list of structures — not just religious ones but encroachments as well — that could stall infrastructure development.
Road connectivity in the hills and mountain areas is still a challenge. What are your plans to improve this?
We have started work to build roads in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. We have dedicated a fund of Rs 40,000 crore for Kashmir alone as the region needs roads. We will also build tunnels. Constructing roads in the Northeast is a challenge we would like to take up.
You spoke of building arterial roads in Delhi. Have you earmarked areas for these roads?
Three of the roads would be built on NH 1, NH 8 and NH 24. A survey is being done and areas will be finalised soon. Apart from this, we will start work on the Yamuna Inland Waterways project in three months. The first waterway will be from Palla to Wazirabad.
How do you plan to curb the rising levels of pollution?
We will first commission a survey on the exact cause of pollution. From what I know, vehicular emission is not a significant contributor to air pollution. I would like to know if pollution is being caused by fuels or some other factor.
The BJP came to power by assuring people of development in various sectors. Do you think your fellow ministers are digressing from this by engaging in debates on nationalism?
“Hum Bharat Mata ki jai bolte hain par kaam bhi karte hain. (We say ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ but we also work hard). My colleagues are also doing the same.
What is your opinion on Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s allegations that the PM’s BA degree is not genuine?
The posts of Prime Minister and President should not be demeaned. He should stop making false accusations. Despite the Centre cooperating with Kejriwal, he continues to level baseless allegations.