Dismal performance by infrastructure sector mars Modi govt’s 5-year Vision Document

At a time when Modi govt is busy with preparation of its 5-year Vision Document, a cursory look at the reports prepared by various infrastructure sectors reveals underperformance in various fields

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Kumud Das

At a time when the government at the Centre is busy with the preparation of its 5-year Vision Document, a cursory look at the reports prepared by various infrastructure sectors reveals underperformance in various fields.

In fact, a two-day meeting of Union Council of Ministers is reported to have been held in New Delhi on January 3-4 which was presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. The government at the Centre had asked all its ministries to prepare a 5-Year Vision Document. It was followed by the review of various ministries on the eve of a possible reshuffle at the Centre later during the month.

Of course, this came in the wake of a similar high-level meeting, which was held and presided over by the PM in the last week of October, the source said. The meeting was basically held to review progress in various infrastructure sectors which include ports, airports, national highways and railways.

Let us begin with the aviation sector. The government is looking at an additional 100 airports by 2023-24. For this, the government plans to use idle airstrips, Defence establishments, PSUs and private companies (46). In addition to it, 15 private green-field airports will be developed and a similar number of new AAI airports will also come up. Heliports will be developed as a new means of communication as the government plans to develop 31 heliports across the country in the next few years. Besides, the government has plans to use water drones to enhance a 12-airport network.

The aviation ministry has prepared a blueprint to ensure that the forthcoming connectivity would overcome the grounding of Jet Airways. While three new Tier-II/III cities have already been connected with airports including regional connectivity scheme (RCS) and helipads as on September-end, the ministry is eying on increasing the number to 25 by March-end. Nineteen such cities have already been connected by air in the year gone by. As many as 10 such airports are under operationalisation. Moreover, the govt plans to expand UDAN to 875 routes by 2022 and 1,000 by 2024.

However, reality is different altogether. In terms of air connectivity, only 19 Tier-II/III cities were connected with airports, including the ones falling under regional connectivity scheme and helipads as against the target of 26 in the entire year gone by. Even in the current fiscal, only three such cities have been connected as on September-end, when compared to the target for the current fiscal at 25. The condition is worse on the front of the cargo movement in terms of million metric tonnes per annum (MTPA). Merely 1.5 MTPA had been achieved as on August 31, against the current fiscal’s target of 4.8. Still, the government has kept the target of achieving 6.5 MTPA by 2022 and 10 by 2027-28.

In the port sector, the government is looking at timely completion of National Waterways Projects, liberalise regulation on coastal shipping, rationalise coal linkages and include PSUs for shipping for bulk movement tenders. The country could not achieve even half of the coastal tonnage (MTPA) target as in September (128) from the entire fiscal’s target of 275. Again, in terms of cargo volume handled in national waterways (MT), we have achieved 34.09 and thus we are much behind the current fiscal’s target of 80.

Again, the situation is totally different on the front of the progress report of the sector as prepared by the ministry. In terms of coastal tonnage, the country has achieved 128 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) as on September-end as against the current fiscal’s target of 275 MTPA, a ministry document says.

Similarly, in terms of cargo volume handled in national waterways, the country has achieved 34.09 MT (million Tonne) as on September-end as against the fiscal year’s target of 80 MT.

In terms of average turnaround time, the country has achieved 64.69 hours as in the second quarter, from the entire year’s target of 58 hours. In terms of vessel turnaround time too, the country was lagging behind its target of 32 hrs as it has achieved at 38.92 only as in Q2.

Coming to railways, the government has set a host of targets to be achieved in the current fiscal. Some of those targets are to identify and take steps to address low hanging aspects to improve logistics with timeframe, develop index to identify areas for private sector investments, implement creeping increase in passenger fares and expand hybrid model(truck-train) to be introduced in 20 more routes.

Talking about road construction, the government is looking at a faster pace of road construction with innovative financing models. As against a target of 11,000 km of road to be constructed by the fiscal-end, the country has been able to develop only 4,600 km of road by September. Interestingly, the NHAI has awarded merely 2,100 km for construction only as on September-end, as against the target of 10,000 km that was last fiscal’s target.

Whatever be the case, the real achievement in the sector so far is quite discouraging. Only 4,622 km of roads have been constructed as on September 30, 2019 whereas the entire fiscal year’s target stands at 11,000 km. The second major hurdle is that the outlay is insufficient for arranging road construction works. The outlay for national highways for the current fiscal was at Rs 147 crore per hectare, whereas the country needs Rs 471 crore. While 10,000 km of road construction has been awarded for the current fiscal, merely 2,100 km roads have been constructed as in September. In terms of road safety, only 33 black spots have been rectified as on September as against the entire fiscal’s target of 200.

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