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New Delhi: The government has expanded the role of the project monitoring group (PMG) in the Cabinet Secretariat in order to speed up and ease project approvals.

Under the National Democratic Alliance government, the PMG has been asked to follow up on the timelines it sets for different ministries and state governments to provide clearances, in an extra push to ensure timely decision-making. Earlier, the PMG would set deadlines and the department of financial services would do the follow up.

“At the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) level, it was decided that our group would follow up on the deadlines that are set. Serious efforts have to be made to ensure that these deadlines are being met and it results in actual economic activity on the ground," said Anil Swarup, additional secretary, cabinet committee on investments who heads the PMG.

PMG has taken up 28 such projects where either the earlier deadlines were unmet or additional issues had surfaced. These projects involve a total investment of 20,830 crore.

There has also been a directive for greater coordination with state governments to speed up the project clearance process, especially by getting all state governments to adopt a similar online portal as set up by the PMG for the central government where the industry can apply for clearances online.

“This is how we aim to provide a single window mechanism for seeking clearances for the industry. The idea is to improve the ease of doing business and transparency. The state portals will be synced with the central government portals for seamless coordination," said Swarup.

Fourteen state governments have already followed suit and others are in the process of setting up portals—except Tamil Nadu and West Bengal which have not responded. With the states forming separate portals, clearances for projects under 1,000 crore will also be digitized, said Swarup.

The Union budget presented on 10 July had signalled the NDA government’s intent to usher in a model of growth in which states have a bigger role to play.

The PMG was formed under the earlier United Progressive Alliance government last year for removing bottlenecks in stalled projects involving an investment of 1,000 crore or more on a time-bound basis.

“Earlier, we were only focusing on the end process. Now, we are looking at the process itself in order to prevent problems from arising in the first place," Swarup said.

The PMG has cleared 163 projects worth 5.7 trillion so far of the 450 projects worth 22 trillion that have been brought under its consideration.

Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman of Feedback Infrastructure Services, an infrastructure services company, and chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) national task force on infrastructure projects, said, the PMG will draw its power from the interest and involvement of the Prime Minister Office (PMO).

“I think the PMG will be able to build on its success if it is put under the PMO instead of the cabinet secretariat and if all state governments adopt the same online platform as that at the centre," he said.​

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