Minister, Road Transport & Highways and Shipping (India)
With new projects in the pipeline and increasing support of the people, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping is making consistent progress in India, says Gadkari.
The minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping in India, Nitin Gadkari, talks to Biz@India about the progress his ministry has made and how they are consistently working towards improving these departments, both financially and also in terms of infrastructure.
What are the main focus areas for you at Davos in 2017?
India is the fastest growing economy. We have tremendous potential especially in sectors like aviation and road. The performance of our government is excellent. Even in the automobile sector, we are close to becoming the automobile hub of the world. Technical manpower is available, while at the same time the purchasing power and the population are also present. Today, new technology, innovation, and research have a lot of potential. Our government is very keen on development. We want to create more employment potential. For our country’s progress we need major investment in different sectors. Today, I feel, people are thinking of India as the fastest growing economy. Regarding the economic viability, people are giving good response. They are very interested to invest in India.
Let’s talk about roads and transport ministry. What was the growth in the last two-three years? What is your future plan?
When I took charge as the minister, road construction was two km per day. Last year it was 18 km, nine times more. By December it was 17-18 km. I am confident that soon we will complete 40 km per day. So the road construction is moving fast. Today we are in a really good situation that our infrastructure is developing fast. Most interesting thing is our 12 major port and 3-flagship organisation. Last year our profit was INR 60 billion (USD 930 million) and for this year we are expecting INR 70 billion (USD 1 billion). We have started inland waterways. In Ganga we have work of more than INR 40 billion (USD 620 million). We are making three multi-modal hubs at Varanasi, Haldi and Sahibganj, 40 water ports and five rural services. We are encouraging the water transport because it is the future.
We are encouraging cruise tourism. This year, 100 cruises are coming to Mumbai, 60 to Goa, 70 to Cochin and Mangalore. So the cruise tourism is also increasing in India. We want to make some catamaran and hovercrafts, using the best technology and encourage water transport. We have 7,500 km of seafront, and 20,000 km of river length.
The logistics cost in our country is 18 pc. In China it is 8-10pc and in Europe it is 12-14 pc. So we want to reduce the logistics cost. Going by water is cheaper. If cost of going by road is INR 1.5 (USD 0.023), by railways it is INR 1 (USD 0.016), and by water it is INR 0.20 (USD 0.003). In European countries like France, Germany everywhere, the industrial area is near the riverfront.
Thus, keeping that in mind, we are making 2,000 ports near that area of seafront and river. We will make storage warehouses, pre-cooling plants and export-import activity will be there. Now from Sahebganj district in the eastern state of Jharkhand, we can take any material to the United States of America (US), Bangladesh and Myanmar. So there we can change the logistics cost. That is very important for us. That will be a great thing to boost the Indian economy. That’s where my department is working.
At a time highway length was 97,300 km, after our government we have taken it to 200,000 km. Then 40 pc of the national traffic was on two pc roads. But after making it 200,000 km, 80 pc of traffic will be on national highways. We are making cementconcrete roads. When there is traffic of more than 10,000 Passenger Car Equivalent (PCUs) we are making four lanes. If it is more than 20,000 PCUs, we are making six lanes. We are making 12 express highways. These are the things, which are moving fast. We are making improvements in our logistical power. We are making multi-modal hubs, regarding railway station, airport and bus station in one place. We are planning to convert the existing bus station to bus port like airport on public–private partnership (PPP) model. Plus, we are making the cold storage warehouses and pre-cooling plant system for our ring roads, hence, increasing logistical power. So there is huge potential.
What are the challenges faced in land acquisition?
It is not at all a challenge. In my own department, today we have deposited INR 200 billion (USD 3 billion) with the state government. Fortunately after the new law, if the commercial value of land is INR 1 million (USD 15,000) per acre, we are giving INR 1.4 million (USD 21,000) to INR 1.5 million (USD 23,000) per acre. Now land is not a problem, in some places environment and forest clearances are a problem but today the total atmosphere is changing. They are very development oriented. People understand that we are a rich nation with poor population. For that we need industrial development. We need to create more employment potential, innovation, entrepreneurship, technology, and research; hence initiatives like Skill India and Digital India. People are now responding to our initiatives. I feel that this is a really good time for us.
What about the role for European and foreign investments in your projects?
The investment is open but presently we don’t have any problem. The deposits in the banks have increased by 25 pc to 30 pc. But people who want to invest are most welcome.
Do you want any roadshows to attract people?
I am meeting with the pensions fund and other people already. There is a good response. A lot of people are investing in India.
And what about in terms of technology transfer?
We are planning to make a big workshop on innovative, cost effective technology on cementconcrete pavement roads and soil stabilisation. We are making bridges with pre-cast technology. We are inviting people to India and we will allow people to take any technology.
Going forward, what kind of collaboration do you see between India and Europe in these areas?
Particularly in the shipping sector, there are many opportunities. All ports are in profit. We are now encouraging cruise tourism. Like I mentioned before, a number of cruises are coming to Mumbai, Goa, Cochin and Mangalore. So the tourism approach is also changing. I feel that there is a huge opportunity available in waterways, shipping and cruise tourism.
Is there adequately skilled manpower? Can Europe play a role over there?
We don’t have any problem. We are developing the skilled manpower. Already the activities are going on. People are being trained, so trained manpower is not a problem.