NEW DELHI: The government is setting ambitious targets for this fiscal and the next to ensure that the poll promises of the Narendra Modi-led government are met, besides embracing technology at a faster pace to monitor programmes aimed at creating infrastructure in the country.
A senior official, who was part of the recently held infrastructure review meeting chaired by Modi, told ET that the Prime Minister has asked Niti Aayog, the government’s premier think tank, to set ambitious targets for all sectors keeping in mind the commitments made by this government for housing, electricity, etc. General elections are due in 2019.
Besides, a lot of emphasis is being given to monitor implementation of infrastructure creation in the country. “For the first time ever, technology is being used at such a scale to monitor the progress of infrastructure development,” the official said.
While drones are being used to monitor road construction and coal exploration, geotagging is being used to track construction of houses and GIS is being used to monitor progress under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and shipping.
During his poll campaign, Modi had promised that by 2022, when the country celebrates its 75th year of Independence, all people, mostly the poor, will have houses, toilet facilities, power and schools. The government is also keen on making India an attractive investment destination, which in part is the reason behind this focus on improving overall infrastructure.
In 2016-17, the seven infrastructure sectors reviewed registered an average growth of 30%, which experts say was in part due to periodic reviews by Modi, time-bound and outcome-based monitoring by the Aayog. These sectors include roads, railways, airports, ports, digital and coal. The next half a dozen sectors, including social sectors, will be reviewed next week and new targets for all the sectors for 2017-18 are likely to be finalised soon.
Last fiscal, the country witnessed the highest-ever average daily construction rate of 130 km under PMGSY, the pet project of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This has led to an addition of 47,400 km of PMGSY roads in 2016-17, while 11,641 additional habitations have been connected with roads in the same period.
In the highways sector, over 26,000 km of four-or six-lane national highways have been built in FY17, and the pace is improving. “PM has asked Niti Aayog to examine global standards in the application of technology for infrastructure creation and their feasibility in India,” the official said, adding that the PM has proposed a ‘challenge method’ for road construction in the country—meaning whichever state comes with readily available land will get roads first—as the high cost of acquiring land is holding back states from constructing roads.
As far as railways is concerned, Modi has called for speeding up of work related to redevelopment of railway stations and more creativity in generation of non-fare revenue. “Don’t be just a coal carrier or focus on bulk commodity,” Modi is believed to have said.
Even the ports sector has seen the highestever capacity addition of 100.4 MTPA in major ports in 2016-17. However, “the Prime Minister stressed on better outcomes for turnaround time of ships and clearance for exim cargo,” the official said.
According to Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, rationalisation of coal linkages and movement has yielded over Rs 2,500 crore in annual savings in 2016-17. “Noting the decline in coal imports, the Prime Minister asked for even more vigorous efforts towards coal import substitution, and application of new coal technologies, including gasification technology,” the official said.
Lauding the enhanced passenger capacity in the aviation sector at 282 million per annum, Modi reiterated that efforts should be made to enhance capacity at the existing airports besides developing MRO facility in the country.
On the digital infrastructure, Modi has directed stakeholder ministries to explore the possibility of working with states in the public-private partnership mode.