We have the funds, the target is to change mindset: Nitin Gadkari
Infrastructure sector needs a fast-track decision-making process says transport minister Nitin Gadkari
The Union Budget 2017-18 talks about multi-modal transport planning between railways, highways and inland waterways, an idea floated by the Union minister for road transport and highways and shipping, Nitin Gadkari, in 2014 when he took charge of the ministries. In the backdrop of an allocation of Rs2.41 trillion for the transportation sector, Gadkari spoke to Mint about the Union budget. Excerpts:
Union Budget 2017-18 says the government will now focus on multi-modal hubs. Is it your vision that has taken shape?
It is the vision of the government, but the recommendations were from my ministries. This concept of multi-modal hubs is present globally and I personally feel it is the way forward. We have launched pilots for multi-modal in Varanasi and Nagpur, and once they are completely operational, the government will eventually scale up the idea. This integrated travel approach will help in reducing traffic congestion, causing great relief to people and freight and also bring down logistics costs.
The transport and highways ministry had requested around Rs97,000 crore and was allocated just Rs64,900 crore in 2017-18. Are you happy with the allocation?
My expectation is always more. Railways needed higher government support because they have low private investment but that is not the case with us. Funds are not an issue with my department. If we monetize 100 projects, ministry of highways can generate Rs1.25 trillion. This includes Rs70,000 crore worth masala bonds which have been given tax exemption by the finance minister today. We have enough funds but the target is to change the mindset. The infrastructure sector needs a fast-track decision-making process and quick solving of environment and forest clearance. Once they are fast-tracked, infra growth will be phenomenal.
How do you see the budget for the shipping sector?
It’s a nice budget. For the shipping ministry the allocation has gone up from Rs1,531 crore in BE (budget estimate) 2016-17 to Rs1,773 crore and Rs600 crore have been allocated for the Sagarmala programme. Apart from this, the cabinet has also been moved to transfer 5% from the central road fund to inland waterways so that Rs2,000 crore is available for inland waterways development.
With an allocation of just Rs64,000 crore, what would be your priority areas of investment?
We are working on express highways, Bharatmala and Sagarmala. On Tuesday, I announced two expressways in Madhya Pradesh—the Chambal expressway and the Narmada expressway. Our target is 200,000km of national highways in five years and I’m hopeful that we meet this target. I can promise is that five years of our government will show development that hasn’t been displayed in the last 50 years.
Do you think the emphasis is more on rural infrastructure than urban?
No, it is for rural and agricultural development as well as for urban development. It is an integrated development oriented approach. Our agricultural growth rate was 4.1% and it was important to concentrate on our rural population in providing them infrastructure to curb the growing migration to cities. We are also giving impetus to industries and irrigation facilities in the rural sector to generate more employment opportunities for them.
How do you think this budget is going to help?
The budget is aimed at improving the lives of rural population, boosting infrastructure and generating more employment opportunities. It will guide our country towards sustainable development. Besides, a lot of measures have been announced to weed out corruption and black money.
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