Roads & High­ways Sum­mit 2018: Play­ers up­beat over ex­em­plary per­for­mance of High­way sec­tor

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In the Roads and High­ways Sum­mit or­ga­nized by the PHD Cham­ber of Commerce and In­dus­try in New Delhi re­cently, play­ers in­clud­ing equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers, tech­nol­ogy providers, con­trac­tors and project clear­ing and im­ple­ment­ing agen­cies ap­peared up­beat over the bur­geon­ing road build­ing tar­gets and ad­e­quate fund al­lo­ca­tions to match the laid down tar­gets. In its en­tirety, they were unan­i­mous in ap­plaud­ing trans­port min­istry for its ef­fi­cient, speedy and ster­ling per­for­mance in han­dling the en­tire process start­ing from projects awards, de­liv­ery and im­ple­men­ta­tions. In to­tal­ity, high­way build­ing in In­dia hit a record 10,000 km in the last fis­cal as against 8,231 km in FY17 and 4,260 km (11 km/day) in FY14. On an av­er­age, 28 km of high­ways were con­structed ev­ery day in FY18, while new con­tracts are be­ing awarded for achiev­ing tar­gets of 46 km/day.

In his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress, Sec­re­tary Min­istry of Road Trans­port and High­ways and Chair­man NHAI, Yud­hvir Singh Ma­lik said that road build­ing agen­cies in­clud­ing NHAI, NHIDCL, BRO and Cen­tral and States PWDs are do­ing a won­der­ful job even in the hos­tile and chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions like tough terrain and in­clement weather. In the given sce­nario, de­tailed project re­port (DPR) is a foun­da­tion stone of any project as it de­cides smooth­ness and time­lines for its ex­e­cu­tion. But cur­rently most of the DPRs are be­ing pre­pared with­out vis­it­ing the ac­tual project site and in­stead sketched by sit­ting in air con­di­tion­ing en­vi­rons by tak­ing the help of Google map. In­dia still has to go a long way in the road sec­tor and each one should play his role deftly and must un­der­stand the essence of own­er­ship at each and ev­ery stage of plan­ning, pre­par­ing of DPRs and project ex­e­cu­tion.

Strik­ing a dis­con­tent note, he lamented that the main cause of con­cern in the road and high­way sec­tor is that a large num­ber of road users are avoid­ing pay­ing toll on one pre­text or the other. They gen­er­ally ad­dress them­selves with their of­fi­cial and so­cial statures rather than nor­mal road users, which is ad­versely block­ing the flow of money to the road con­struc­tion com­pa­nies caus­ing acute fi­nan­cial con­straints. In ad­di­tion, there are ris­ing in­ci­dence of state gov­ern­ments ex­empt­ing spe­cific ve­hi­cle cat­e­gories from toll pay­ments and this is also caus­ing con­cern among road de­vel­op­ers and con­ces­sion­aires alike. Agree­ments signed be­tween the con­ces­sion­aires and the gov­ern­ments have no such clauses of adding more ve­hi­cles to the ex­empted cat­e­gory and prac­tice in­creas­ingly cre­at­ing fi­nan­cial mess. These apart, liq­uid­ity stress till the re­ceipt of com­pen­sa­tion from the state gov­ern­ment is also jeop­ar­diz­ing the con­ces­sion­aire’s abil­ity to ser­vice debt in a timely man­ner, he said.

De­liv­er­ing in­dus­try per­spec­tive, Chair­man, Roads, Ports and other In­fra­struc­ture Com­mit­tees, Ashish Wing, stated that key in­fra­struc­ture sec­tors are mov­ing ahead at an ap­pre­cia­ble pace and this has opened up tremen­dous busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers, tech­nol­ogy providers and con­trac­tors and al­lied func­tionar­ies by in­tro­duc­ing mul­ti­ple road build­ing mod­els in the road and high­way sec­tor. In an en­cour­ag­ing

de­vel­op­ment in the road sec­tor, NHAI has awarded a record break­ing 150 projects worth ₹1.22 lakh crore for con­struct­ing a length of 7,400 km of high­ways. In the past five years, the av­er­age length of road projects awarded by NHAI was 2,860 km but the length of projects awarded in FY 201718 is an all-time high since its in­cep­tion in 1995. He fur­ther added that PHDCC is play­ing piv­otal role and is in­stru­men­tal in ad­dress­ing press­ing con­cerns the road and high­way sec­tor is cur­rently con­fronting. In to­tal­ity, the sum­mit over the years, go­ing all out high­light­ing that con­nec­tiv­ity via roads, rails and wa­ter­ways is the key for at­tain­ing pro­jected GDP growth tar­gets. In view of this, PHDCC be­lieves that the cur­rent pace of road and high­way build­ing will open up huge busi­ness av­enues for stake hold­ers in­clud­ing those en­gaged in the con­struc­tion equip­ment in­dus­try. The in­dus­try in turn must make the most out of the com­mend­able work cur­rently be­ing car­ried out by the trans­port min­istry by rolling out their best ma­chines, hi-tech tech­nol­ogy and ex­per­tise en­abling con­trac­tors to ex­e­cute their projects on or be­fore sched­ules.

Deputy GM Mini Ex­ca­va­tor Sales and Busi­ness, JCB In­dia, J S Narula in his ad­dress dwelled in de­tail about the in­tro­duc­tion of JCB3Plus in In­dia and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries from its Jaipur man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity. The ma­chine is a 3-ton oper­at­ing weight with a width of 1.55 me­tres de­signed es­pe­cially to work in con­gested and nar­row ar­eas and job sites with re­stricted ac­cess for trench dig­ging along roads and high­ways. It is the most suit­able equip­ment for ca­ble pipe­line lay­ing task along high­ways, base­ments and cul­verts due to its unique boom and arm off­set feature. It comes with a pre-fit­ted aux­il­iary hy­draulic cir­cuit and en­abling JCB Rock Break­ers for break­ing con­crete and so­lid­i­fied slag and also with JCB Auger for drilling holes in the ground and pole erec­tion, fence posts and tree plan­ta­tions. Be­sides it is an ideal as­set for civil and util­ity works in ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, roads, rail­ways and real es­tate de­vel­op­ment projects.

Like­wise, Lt Gen Harpal Singh, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Bor­der Road Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said that (BRO) de­vel­ops and main­tains road net­works in In­dia's bor­ders and friendly neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. It cur­rently main­tains road op­er­a­tions in twenty-one states, one UT (An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands), and neigh­bor­ing coun­tries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myan­mar, and Sri Lanka. It op­er­ates and main­tains over 32,885 km of roads and about 12,200 me­ters of per­ma­nent bridges in the coun­try. BRO is con­struct­ing 63 of the 73 roads as it costs BRO $15 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion per km as com­pared to $60 mil­lion to $70 mil­lion per km of road con­struc­tion by the pri­vate com­pa­nies. In two years alone, 2015–16 and 2016–17 the gov­ern­ment has al­lo­cated more than $4.7 bil­lion in con­tracts for the de­vel­op­ment of bor­der roads, which also in­cludes the $256 mil­lion 1,360 km In­dia Myan­mar-Thai­land Tri­lat­eral High­way from Moreh in Ma­nipur through Tamu Myan­mar to Mae Sot in Thai­land.

Apart from roads, it is also build­ing 410 2-lane class-70 (heavy load bear­ing in­clud­ing tanks) road bridged along the 3,440 km long bor­der with China. These apart, BRO is cur­rently build­ing 17 road and rail tun­nels, with a to­tal length of 100 km, on some of the 73 strate­gic roads on Si­noIn­dian bor­der to pro­vide the year-round all­weather rail and road sur­face con­nec­tiv­ity. It is cur­rently con­struct­ing Srinagar Kargil Leh tun­nel on NH 1 in Jammu and Kash­mir, Zo­jila pass tun­nel, Leh Manali high­way in J&K and Hi­machal Pradesh and these are some among other projects that are cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion in the Hi­malayan belt across the coun­try. BRO is work­ing on a project of build­ing 699-km long roads in ar­eas bor­der­ing Bhutan as China shares bor­der with four In­dian states in­clud­ing As­sam (267 km), Arunachal Pradesh (217 km), West Ben­gal (183 km) and Sikkim (32 km) and gov­ern­ment has pro­posed all-weather bor­der road net­work all along the fron­tier and this has of­fered umpteen busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties to equip­ment mak­ers and sup­pli­ers.

Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, NHIDCL, IAS, Na­gen­dra Nath Sinha, while de­liv­er­ing key note ad­dress said that the agency is re­spon­si­ble for the con­struc­tion of strate­gic roads bridges and tun­nels across hilly ar­eas in the Hi­malayan belt of the coun­try. It has built about 3,000 km of roads since 2014 and cur­rently has 2,800 km of high­way projects in hand and will com­mis­sion 2,000 km of them dur­ing this fis­cal. The flex­i­ble pol­icy ini­tia­tives of the gov­ern­ment in­clud­ing higher land rates has not just re­solved land ac­qui­si­tion is­sues but also en­abled NHIDCL to put to use the best tech­nol­ogy and IT re­sources to build qual­ity high­ways. NHIDCL in fact, is a key mar­ket place for qual­ity equip­ment mak­ers and sup­pli­ers and ex­horted PHD Cham­ber to help the agency to pro­cure hi-tech equip­ment in­clud­ing qual­ity pavers as such a move will go a long way in help­ing the NHIDCL in its ar­eas of oper­a­tion in­clud­ing main­tain­ing the high­ways in the foothills of Hi­malaya.

Elab­o­rat­ing on the fi­nan­cial as­pect of the high­way sec­tor, Joint Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, IRB, Sud­hir Hosh­ing, re­vealed that apart from multi-pronged strate­gies be­ing ex­plored by the trans­port min­istry in­clud­ing ex­plor­ing off­shore fund­ing sources to make avail­able ad­e­quate fi­nanc­ing for the road and high­way sec­tor. In an en­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ment, now pri­vate banks like HDFC, Ko­tak Mahin­dra, In­dusInd, Yes Bank, and RBL have started show­ing keen in­ter­est to fund more na­tional high­way projects also un­der the pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship (PPP) model, which un­til re­cently was get­ting a step-moth­erly treat­ment. This comes at a time when some of the pub­lic sec­tor banks, reel­ing un­der mas­sive NPAs, are hes­i­tant to fi­nance more road con­struc­tion works. In fact, the top brass of pri­vate banks in a re­cent meet­ing with trans­port min­is­ter Nitin Gad­kari ap­peared ready to fi­nance the projects ex­e­cuted un­der the hy­brid an­nu­ity model (HAM) where gov­ern­ment takes the max­i­mum risk and fi­nanciers are largely in­su­lated. On the other hand gov­ern­ment is also work­ing on op­tions in­clud­ing reach­ing out to for­eign pen­sion funds to buy longterm NHAI bonds with as­sured re­turns.

Mem­ber (Projects) NHAI, R K Pandey, Group Gen­eral Man­ager, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, DFCCIL, S N Ali, Chief Gen­eral Man­ager (IT) NHAI, A K Sri­vas­tava, Deputy Ad­vi­sor, Trans­port, Niti Ayog, Amit Bhard­waj, Chief Sci­en­tist, Cen­tral Road Re­search In­sti­tute, K Si­taram An­janyelu, Na­tional Busi­ness Man­ager, Trim­ble, Ra­jesh Monga and Vice President, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Afcons Anup Ku­mar Guru were among many oth­ers who also ad­dressed the Sum­mit.

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