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New Delhi: Government is committed to providing jobs to at least 50 lakh people in highways and shipping sectors where it plans to undertake massive projects worth 6 lakh crore, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday.

Besides, the government is working towards a 22,000 crore project to provide connectivity between India and Sri Lanka for which the Asian Development Bank has expressed willingness to provide funding, he said. “We have decided to do work worth 5 lakh crore in road sector and 1 lakh crore in shipping sector. In the next five years we will ensure employment to at least 50 lakh youth in the country," Gadkari said on the sidelines of a conference on Highways Equipment in New Delhi.

Since last year both the sectors have started looking up and the Modi government has already awarded projects worth 1 lakh crore, said the Minister for Road Transport and Highways. Besides overhauling these sectors, the government has been trying to improve connectivity with neighbouring nations on high priority basis, he said.

After signing pacts with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal for seamless flow of traffic, another project for providing connectivity with Sri Lanka is on the anvil, he added. “ADB (Asian Development Bank) is ready to finance a 22,000 crore project for providing connectivity to neighbouring Sri Lanka. I had a discussion with the Vice President of ADB and they are ready to finance," Gadkari said.

He said there is a missing link of narrow corridor of about 22 km in connectivity to Sri Lanka from Rameshwaram which is presently being serviced through makeshift ferry service arrangements. “We are working on the project and as soon as it is completed, Trans Asia Road and transport network could be extended to Sri Lanka," Gadkari said.

The proposed project will be a combination of bridge and underwater tunnel which will allow unhindered movement of ships through it, he said. India would soon enter into another landmark motor pact with Myanmar and Thailand by year-end, on the lines of the BBIN signed with three other SAARC nations, he added.

Work on $8 billion road connectivity projects among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) under Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) will be completed within two years, he said. The BBIN pact was signed last month during Gadkari’s visit to Bhutan. About highways, Gadkari said revival is underway in the About highways, Gadkari said revival is underway in the sector that was left in the lurch by the UPA government, and the public-private-partnership (PPP) mode is also picking up.

“There were discussions that PPP is not possible in the country as last year only five projects had come. But in the last three months only we have approved 9 big PPP projects. We are doing 17 projects on hybrid model," he said.

Projects worth about 13,500 crore have been awarded so far this fiscal in sharp contrast to barely 6,300 crore projects awarded in 2014-15. The number of PPP projects awarded was only two in 2013-14. Gadkari said financing has never been an issue in the Highways Ministry and it has 112 projects completed through government funds to be sold to foreign insurance and pension funds.

“The ministry has 112 projects, completed through government funds, which have been earmarked for selling to foreign insurance and pension funds," he said. He had recently said that many foreign funds were ready to extend funding of 2-3 lakh crore on 0.50% interest.

“The Ministry has 42,000 crore budgetary allocation. It can also raise 70,000 crore from tax exempted bonds besides we have annual toll collection of 7,000-8,000 crore. If we securitise these for 15 years, we can get 1,20,000 crore," he said.

Addressing highways equipment manufacturers, Gadkari said innovation and technology were key to faster economic growth and his Ministry will “form in eight days a Council" which will analyse and give nod to new technologies and innovations recommended through organisations like Central Road Research. He also urged the manufacturers to collaborate with local ITIs for skill development as there was tremendous scope of skilled manpower.

Besides, he asked them to manufacture green-fuel friendly vehicles and said that a radar system would be introduced for road asset management. On new highway projects, Gadkari said the pace of construction will pick up and many state highways would be converted into National Highways. He asked states to convert district roads into state highways to contribute to the national growth.

On the Shipping sector, he said some of the existing vessels can be converted into LNG ships, as the government is planning to build LNG-based water ports. He said a Bill to convert 101 rivers across the nation into waterways will be introduced in the upcoming Parliament session as India lacked this cheaper mode of transportation.

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