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any rea­sons can be at­trib­uted to the in­con­sis­tent growth and d e v e l o p me n t pat­terns in in­fra­struc­ture sec­tor. On some oc­ca­sions we see that the sce­nario is to­tally in favour of build­ing bet­ter high­ways, ports, air­ports, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, dams, power gen­er­a­tors and so on. Then al­most out of nowhere we see that small is­sues grow into ma­jor chal­lenges and the en­tire mo­men­tum slows down.

Some chal­lenges are, in­deed, gen­uine, while oth­ers are cre­ated by malafide in­ten­tions. In ei­ther case each one of them can be well ad­dressed and so­lu­tions can be pro­vided. But in re­al­ity we find that the de­ci­sion mak­ers take un­rea­son­able amounts of time to come up with the way for­ward. Progress de­layed is as good as progress de­nied yet our laid back ap­proach over­pow­ers the need for fast for­ward de­vel­op­ment.

Ef­fec­tive co­or­di­na­tion

Our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is re­spon­si­ble for prob­lems in de­vel­op­ment of high­ways in our coun­try. A de­cent high­way project needs ef­fec­tive co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the cen­tral govern­ment, the state govern­ment and also the lo­cal bod­ies. In our case, the co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the three is far from rapid and sev­eral is­sues end up in the ‘pass the buck zone.’ Files move from desk to desk at a painful pace leav­ing the de­vel­op­ers at the mercy of ap­prov­ing au­thor­i­ties.

Land ac­qui­si­tions, en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances etc. are turn­ing into night­mares and the in­ter­fer­ence of self-in­ter­ested lo­cals, who find ways and means to ham­per projects, only add up to the prob­lem.

With spe­cial men­tion to BOTbased projects, a de­vel­oper who risks huge amounts of ef­forts, time and funds in de­vel­op­ing the high­way, has to face im­mense re­sis­tance in col­lect­ing toll, an amount which is ba­si­cally the re­turns on his risks and in­vest­ments.

Es­ca­la­tions in prices of raw ma­te­ri­als, labour-re­lated is­sues, ac­ci­dents on high­ways due to care­less driv­ing, are prob­lems that high­way de­vel­op­ers have to face very fre­quently.

Clear­ance process

De­spite the prob­lems, we can see that the fu­ture would def­i­nitely be brighter. Things have im­proved from what they were in the past and slowly but steadily we would be able to stream­line our high­way de­vel­op­ment process in the times to come.

Many of the prob­lems are com­mon in na­ture and repet­i­tive. Some stan­dard pro­ce­dures can be es­tab­lished to avoid de­lays. The de­ci­sion mak­ers in govern­ment of­fices are ca­pa­ble and em­pow­ered to speed up clear­ance process. It is time that they take it upon them­selves to work in close co­or­di­na­tion with the in­volved par­ties and speed up the con­struc­tion process.

The new govern­ment was cho­sen by the pub­lic be­cause of its man­i­festo to set the stag­nant wheels into mo­tion. The ex­pec­ta­tions are high but not un­rea­son­able. It can be ex­pected that the govern­ment ma­chin­ery will start func­tion­ing with a more re­sult-ori­ented ap­proach. The pos­i­tive ap­proach should pene- trate even to the last lev­els so that the en­tire sys­tem shifts into a pos­i­tive gear.

Speedy clear­ances should not be un­der­stood as com­pro­mise on stan­dards. The qual­ity, en­vi­ron­ment as well as safety stan­dards should be com­pre­hen­sive and strictly ad­hered to.

We ex­pect the govern­ment to ed­u­cate the pub­lic at large upon the need and ben­e­fits of BOT-based high­way projects. There can be al­ter­na­tive meth­ods for pri­vate par­tic­i­pa­tion in the forms of an­nu­ity-based projects, or through land de­vel­op­ment rights. If given a se­ri­ous thought the govern­ment can bring the de­vel­op­ers to­gether and come up with so­lu­tions.

We also ex­pect the govern­ment to pay at­ten­tion to safety is­sues. We all know that de­vel­oped coun­tries are very strict about im­ple­ment­ing safety norms on high­ways. The strict­ness ap­plies not only on high­way con­trac­tors but also on com­muters. Speed­ing is a very im­por­tant fac­tor for ac­ci­dents in In­dia. Not wear­ing seat belts or hel­mets too proves to fa­tal in many cases.

An­other ex­pec­ta­tion from the govern­ment is with re­spect to PE in­vest­ments. Al­though an exit pol­icy for in­vestors is in place, there is a need to fur­ther stream­line the pol­icy such that it can be more at­trac­tive for the pri­vate play­ers and can fa­cil­i­tate new in­flux of funds in the sec­tor.

Ear­lier, there used to be a sec­tion 10(23G) for in­come earned by fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions for loans/in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture projects. Ac­cord­ingly, in­ter­est rates were re­duced to the ex­tent of tax sav­ing. This sec­tion should be rein­tro­duced.

It is be­yond doubt that high­ways shall re­main the life­line for progress in the en­tire coun­try. The de­bate re­gard­ing BOT-based projects vs. govern­ment funded projects is likely to con­tinue for a lit­tle longer but that does not mean that the po­ten­tial would di­min­ish in any ways.

We can see that even the state gov­ern­ments have started fo­cus­ing on build­ing bet­ter and faster high­ways for the com­muters. This has opened up huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­vel­op­ers. As long as progress is the ob­jec­tive, the po­ten­tial for high­way con­struc­tion shall stay alive.

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