Hurdles notwithstanding, the UPA government will make 7,300 kilometres of road in the next three years, says Chandra Prakash Joshi, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, six months after taking charge of the portfolio. “We have made targets, done monthly reviews and given a review presentation to the Prime Minister. We’ve painted a correct, realistic, pragmatic, picture before him,” says Joshi in Sachchi Baat talkshow. One of the rising stars in the party, Joshi surprised many inside and outside the party with his commendable performance as Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj in the Congress led UPA government in 2009, after his first Lok Sabha win from Bhilwara constituency in Rajasthan. Before entering into full-time politics, Joshi was a Professor of Psychology at Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur. Excertps:
PC: So now a lot of your time is spent on a road (in a lighter vein)
CPJ: We are doing the work of making roads.
PC: So, have you started travelling by road? (Tongue-in-cheek)
CPJ: As and when the road is made, I will travel on it.
PC: Do you go from Delhi to Jaipur by road?
CPJ: I have gone two or three times.
PC: It must have been a harrowing experience.
CPJ: A four-lane road was made; we are converting it into six-lane. The construction of the structure for upgrading the road to three lanes is taking time.
PC: There has been time and cost overrun in the project.
CPJ: As of now, there has been no time and cost overrun. But the work is not going on at a speed that it should have been. Hence, it has to be monitored effectively.
PC: That means there has been a time overrun?
CPJ: After awarding any tender, the contractor gets a certain time period—25 months or three years—to complete the project. That time has still not lapsed. There has been no time overrun. But the work progress which should have been done in certain time has not happened.
PC: You have been at the helm of the ministry for one-and-a-half years. It does not seem that you will be able to complete the target set by (Union Minister for Urban Development) Kamal Nath, which he had said in earlier interviews to me. Do you have any plan in mind, or you are letting things run as they were?
CPJ: Kamal Nathji announcement was that we would make 20 km of road every day. He went ahead with that good thought. But because of economic recession, the concessionaire could not take up the projects as expected. Hence, a condition so happened due to the economic recession, that the target of awarding contracts could not be completed. That is why we could not meet the goal.
PC: When I did Seedhi Baat with him, the economic meltdown had already happened. On that basis I asked him the question that your ministry gets a lot of money from petroleum. As the petrol consumption rises in the country, your income would also rise. You could not meet your target of making 20 kilometre of road per day; you are not even making 11 km but an average of 7 to 8 kilometre of road per day, by your own records. It doesn’t seem we will have good roads soon in our country.
CPJ: No, that is not the case. When the NDA government started the work, it was done in PPC, there was a lot of time and cost overrun. When the UPA came to power, we tried to implement the PPP model to take the work ahead. Kamal Nathji took the decision of taking the work ahead in public private partnership model. Then we had a target of making 20 kilometre of road. But in the PPP model, private funding is also needed in additional of public funding, but due to the economic meltdown the private people were affected. Then there alterations were made to the plan, a committee was formed under B K Chaturvedi, which thought about the ways to solve the problem of the concessionaires. Then we came to the solution that the working capital to the extent of 40 per cent would be given in advance instead of being given in phases. As soon as the project is tendered, the contractor becomes eligible for it.
PC: You would have reviewed, in many states road construction work has not been done, or work is yet to start. Like, in UP, the Kanpur Lucknow road is being made for over a decade now; (even) a bridge has not been built.
CPJ: There are two different issues.
PC: But that stretch also falls under the highway.
CPJ: In the second year of the UPA rule, the PPP model was brought in under the aegis of the national highway program. According to the PPP model, the concessionaire who bids for the tender should also arrange the finances.
PC: Seed money is what you mean.
CPJ: We are putting in 40 per cent of the total cost of the project; the concessionaire has to raise 60 per cent of the money. He has to recover this money by collecting toll. Due to the economic meltdown, required finances could not be generated from financial institutions. This caused a problem and we could not meet our target.
PC: India was not largely affected by the meltdown. There are countries like Malaysia that bore the brunt of the meltdown. But the question is that targets are fixed taking all these factors into account. When Vajpayjeeji was heading the government, a target of constructing eleven kilometres was fixed, their model worked. There might or might not be cost overrun, but it is still said during his rule, road construction received a boost and a large number of roads were built, this is a fact.
CPJ: This is one aspect, the other aspect is not known by the people. In the EPC model adopted by them, decisions regarding Rs. 10,000 crore are still pending and are presently under arbitration. Should this kind of work be done where arbitration decisions are pending? On the other hand, in the PPP model, only Rs. 260 crore worth of arbitration is pending till now. This is the qualitative difference between the two that one should understand.
PC: Fights were more because, decisions could not be taken. But if the private party has to bring in 60 per cent of the money, he will delay if he cannot get access to funds, what about that?
CPJ: We have overcome that issue. It’s been six months since I have become minister of this portfolio. We have made targets, done monthly reviews and given a review presentation to the Honourable Prime Minister. We painted a correct, realistic, pragmatic, picture before him. We have an aim to construct 7,300 kilometres of roads, work on which will be complete in the next three years.
PC: In the next three years?
CPJ: When we will make 7,300 kilometres of road in the next three years, our goal will be accomplished.
PC: That means you will make almost 20 kilometres of road every day, around 18, 19.
CPJ: We will accomplish the mission of constructing 20 kilometres per day. Before going for elections we will tell the people that we have accomplished what we announced.
PC: When you will depend more upon private party, who is supposed to bring in 60 per cent of the funding, he will look at the viability of the project, talk about levying toll tax to recover the money. For example, take the Gurgaon highway, it is very crowded now, four five years ago there were hardly any vehicles. The same person, who is handling the Gurgaon highway, has also taken a contract for another stretch of road falling on the same track. If so many roads are handed over to private parties, is there a possibility of blackmail?
CPJ: It is not in private hands. We identify the stretch of the road, we get the detailed project report (DPR) made, following which the tendering process starts. We have changed rules regarding procurement and tendering and instilled confidence in people. You will be happy to know, (for the) first time the government will earn premium from these projects. On the Baroda–Ahmedabad route, the government will earn a premium of Rs 300 crores every year. According to the tender assessment done by us, in the next 25 years, the Indian government will earn Rs 34,000 crores by way of premium. This is the confidence we have been trying to build in the concessionaire. Hence, today, private parties are doing aggressive bidding, with 14 to 15 parties participating in one bid. Also, it is a good sign that we are earning premium.
PC: You are earning premium, but the pace at which the work is going on...
CPJ: We have a DPR for 10,000 kilometres of road. Recently, the honourable Prime Minister has told us to increase it; he told us that we have to have DPR for 15,000 kilometres of road. We are going ahead with a decision to construct 7,300 kilometres of road. We will award tenders for construction of 15,000 kilometres of road, and we have kept a modest target, that we will make 7,300 kilometres of road in 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14. Then our announcement of construction of 20 kilometres will bear results.
PC: Then you will calculate the average. But in the financial year 2011-12, around 45,000 crore to 46,000 crore rupees will be spent on road construction. Some of this amount will be brought in by the private sector, while you will bring in some. Now three months have passed since the inception of this fiscal. Has 25 percent of this spending quota been used?
CPJ: We are doing a monthly review of the targets set by us and we are going in the right direction.
PC: You said that the government will earn Rs 300 crores as premium, hence the government would not have to fork out extra money for spending 40 per cent of its share in road construction projects. Hence, you will be left with money. Then what will you do of the huge amount of money earned by the ministry by way of fuel cess.
CPJ: Roads are being construction under EPC, BOT and PPP model. Under the BOT model, the concessionaire has to give 40 per cent of toll collection amount as government’s share of revenue. The money from GBS (government budget support) is used for road work in Naxal-affected areas and the Northeast. For, road proposals are not viable for private parties there. Hence, our money is spent there.
PC: That part is cut off from the country, also there is not much traffic on those routes.
CPJ: There is not much traffic on those routes. There we will do road construction work from our own budget.
PC: You might have observed and studied, in the past five years, which are the states in which you had problem in constructing roads. I had heard that in Bihar many road works were incomplete. What is the condition now?
CPJ: The main problem is in states where road network is not good. There is problem with state governments making land available for road construction. Like in Kerala, Goa, Bengal. In these states there is no political will to move the natural habitation for widening of roads. While in some states there is problem in implementation of projects.
PC: Like in Bihar, where I went recently, roads are not being constructed or are being constructed at a slow pace. Contractors are not ready to go there.
CPJ: There is a problem there, especially in the area under the control of the left (the red corridor under the control of Maoists), where there is a law and order problem. Hence, the concessionaire has no confidence of doing the work. Hence, the speed of the work there is not according to our anticipation.
PC: Recently I read a statement that the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh came to meet you, as work on the roads projects that were planned was not even started in the state, or the work is slow in some areas. Can this condition be due to political motivation?
CPJ: There is no political motive. The chief minister had met me and we have explained him the money. Money is allotted in proportion to the diesel consumption in the states and is handed over to the state.
PC: Some for highway projects, money is spent in proportion to petrol and diesel consumption in those states.
CPJ: The CRF money, which is used for maintaining roads and repairing national highway already declared. The issue of the Madhya Pradesh chief minister was regarding CRF money, which is around Rs 200 crores per year for his state. But there was a sanction of Rs 1000 crore, we told them that in this case, we can only grant what is due money, Rs 200 crore to the state.
PC: A lot of national traffic moves through big states like Bihar, hence if the diesel consumption is less there, will they get fewer funds.
CPJ: It is calculated by a formula, though it is true that the money allotted is not adequate for maintenance.
PC: For example, if you want to go to Mumbai, you will go through Madhya Pradesh.
CPJ: Road sector is also a state subject. Government gives money for maintaining national highway. But we are not getting money in comparison to the roadmap of national highways under our jurisdiction. Hence, we are making demand for funds from the finance minister. Hence, he gave us Rs 1000 crore more than the last time.
PC: The national highway passing through UP to go to Uttarakhand has not been made, road to go to Lucknow have not been made after Meerut. Traffic jams are order of the day since years. Roadwork starts and then stops abruptly. In my recently interaction with the Haryana chief minister (Bhupinder Singh Hooda), he said that national highways constructed till the periphery of the city, following which there are traffic jams. Is this due to faulty planning, when you go to Sonepat and Panipat you see that the highway stops the periphery of the city.
CPJ: For making any stretch, for example if the stretch is of 200 kilometres. National highways authority makes roads on the recommendation of the state government, meetings between ministry officials planning commission, expenditure secretary. Also, when the route is declared as a highway, we give money to the state government for maintaining the road from the budget of Rs 4000 crore for this purpose. But this amount is not enough as the road area under NHAI has increased exponentially.
PC: There is talk of lot of corruption in NHAI, roads being under influence of the builder lobby.
CPJ: The B K Chaturvedi committee of the Planning Commission has given a recommendation, stating that for any road that is being made, the maximum cost should be Rs 10 crore per kilometre. If it goes more than that, the some specifications have to be altered. If the road cost increases, then the consumer will be burdened eventually.
PC: The aim of highways is to make traffic pass through the cities smoothly. At every border where the highway ends, there are traffic jams.
CPJ: We will address this issue. I agree with your point. We are now on Facebook to take people’s input on various issues, learn from problems faced by them. E-tendering has been introduced. Everybody should know that this particular stretch of road is being constructed and they can participate by giving suggestions.
PC: Thousands of crores are being spent on upgrading national highways, but state highways in districts of the country are being ignored and are in bad condition. There is a lot of problem faced by people going from one district to another.
CPJ: The states governments have the power to make and maintain state highways and other roads in the state. Our work is to construct national highways.
PC: Keeping aside your role as a central minister, tell me, in your role as a state leader and a politician, what you think about the state of roads in the city level, which is worsening in every state.
CPJ: What you are saying is correct, but in this country, the state and the local council does the work of constructing roads in cities. The rural development ministry makes roads in rural India under the Prime Minister’s rural roads scheme. Hence, three ministries are doing the work of constructing roads in this country. In many other countries, from rural areas to city, there is only one ministry that does all road construction work. Hence, in the city the roads have quality problems, congestion issues, but those will not be looked into by our ministry. But the point put forth by you is valid that we need good quality roads in this country, where at the district, state or national highways level. The issue has to be addressed; we are working on those lines and expect that the states will also fulfil their responsibility.
PC: You might also have been facing troubles in acquiring lands, hence your projects are stalled.
CPJ: Our compensation norms are different from others. We have given leverage in deciding compensation depending upon various factors. We are not facing too many problems. But the kind of environment that is in the country today, as soon as the road is made, the real-estate value around it increases. Hence, the government should identify the areas on the highway stretch where real-estate value will increase, once the road is constructed and auction it.
PC: State governments?
CPJ: Yes, state governments should auction, and after one-time compensation, we should also have a state in the real estate coming up on that stretch of land. We are discussing on these lines with the government, and expect that the farmers will also benefit from this sought of plan. They will get one-time compensation, but the value of land will increase, hence the government will ensure that the farmer gets his share on the real estate coming up on that land.
PC: There might be conflicts, you have one policy, (UP chief minister) Mayawati has another, Hooda saab also has a good policy, hence you will have to decide which policy should be retained.
CPJ: Land is in the concurrent list. Every state has an independency of making the law, it is good if the state governments are making good laws and giving lucrative compensation. This will lead to the farmers feeling contented. Our ministry is thinking. Till now we were making roads on the basis of existing alignment. Hence, habitation had to be shifted. Now we are thinking that we will make a green alignment, which will not disturb existing settlements, the value of property will increase, farmers will get the benefit.
PC: As of now, many of national highways are going from the heart of the city.
CPJ: Unfortunately, existing alignment is being extended in those places. Now we are planning for green alignment which will call for minimum shifting of people.
PC: On a personal note, you seem to be fond of cricket.
CPJ: I have played cricket in school and college.
PC: Sports Minister Ajay Maken has proposed a bill, that people presiding over sports management bodies should be selected subject to age bar rules and limited term. Many people, including Congressmen, don’t seem happy with the plan, BJP people are not happy. Are you satisfied with the bill?
CPJ: I wholly agree with two points, there is a difference between being a player and managing sport.
PC: That we all have seen, we get only one or two gold medals in competitions when we have a population of over 120 crores.
CPJ: That is why I think that the law is also needed to prevent misuse of funds. Regulation is also necessary, but law should be made in such a way, that people eligible for managing sports as well as sportspersons are able to be a part of these bodies. If we bring about such kind of an arrangement, then there will be an improvement in the field of sports in this country.
PC: This means that the existing laws and functioning have to be changed.
CPJ: Certainly. In fact, associations should not be given so much freedom. There should be laws to ensure accountability.
PC: That means you are supporting bill initiated by Ajay Maken.
CPJ: Certainly, the administration should improve. The financials should be administered efficiently, policies should be designed to encourage sportspersons, and morale should not be affected at the whims and fancies of some people. For tackling all of this, if a law is made, it will be welcomed.
PC: Tell me one ‘Sachchi Baat’. Who you think is responsible for the current condition of sports in our country? The administrator or the players?
CPJ: Certainly, the administrator has the role of being a facilitator. I am one of the people who believe that, if we give good facility and good administrator, sportsmen will automatically spring up and the best of their talent will come to the fore. If we just make an association and leave it to the whims of some people, who do not provide then facilities, then they will not get an opportunity to reveal their potential.
PC: Money is needed for sports, the cricket people have most of the money, they have crores, crores are made, but not in hockey, football, not in kabaddi…
CPJ: Cricket also did not become financially lucrative immediately, it has been done because there have been various connected developments relating to the game. Same should happen to other sports also, for example in Europe, there is a football league, which also generated a lot of money. I can happen in India too if we have a league here on those lines.
PC: There are many quarrels in leagues in India, unlike in leagues there.
CPJ: Changes cannot happen unless and until the administrator was to change the system. He must have in his mind that unless there are changes made in the game to generate resources and revenues, adopt good things and invite foreign counties, changes for the better might be difficult. You know at one stage what the condition of the BCCI was, it started IPL and there has been an increase in the amount of money generated.
PC: So you want that there should be transformation in the way sports is managed in this country?
PC: And sportsperson should be given more importance.
PC: Talking of your hometown Nathdwara (in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan), it is an old city (in the Aravallis on the banks the Banas river), but there is talk of the development has suffered, there is problem of cleanliness, and the (17th-century Shrinathji) temple is not developed as it should have been. Why cannot it be developed as Tirupati, like Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sabarimala in Kerala. It is such a big and old temple, with a lot of history attached to it. Why cannot it be developed that way?
CPJ: You have also been a board member there. There is a difference between the administration of Nathdwara temple and others as the chairman has an ex-officio chair. The temple board should make suo motu efforts to divert its resources; even the municipal corporation does not have so many resources as many temples. We have made efforts, during the tenure of the last government the work started, which now needs to be speeded up. I went to Nathdwara alongwith Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, there was talks to improve the work even more. The Rajasthan government has given Rs 5 crore for Nathdwara’s development.
PC: But all money collected is not used for the development works of the temple, roads have been made...
CPJ: The then chief minister Vasundhara Raje had taken a decision to the effect that 50 per cent of the money will go the temple board and the rest 50 per cent to the state government. Hence, that money has been deployed according to the decision of that government. Now the Rs 5 crore that has been given by Rajasthan chief minister from Ashok Gehlot for improving the interiors of the temple, and the traffic condition on the approach roads. We have involved consultants for the same.
PC: Some local people have been made consultants.
CPJ: We have involved some other people. We are also having discussions with the planning commission, on how we should all work for Nathdwara’s development. Because, lot of publicity should happen, it is such a place where people from all over the world come. If there is cleanliness there, then the country is appreciated. We are making efforts and you will soon see a transformation.
PC: There is a lot of talk of corruption in this country, Congress leaders and other party leaders are being blamed. People from certain quarters are saying that the chief minister should be changed, Rahul Gandhi should be made Prime Minister, even your general secretary said that time has come, it is ripe.
CPJ: This question was raised even before the elections, when people asked who your prime minister candidate is. Soniaji said that Manmohan Singhji would be our Prime Minister. In the Burari session also, Sonia Gandhiji and Rahul Gandhiji said that Manmohan Singhji is our prime minister. Hence, this is not an issue.
PC: But Digvijay Singh said it.
CPJ: It might be his individual opinion.
PC: Is this not Congress party’s opinion?
CPJ: The Congress party’s leadership, Sonia Gandhiji, who is our President, CWC decides. Today in our country we all know that Sonia Gandhiji, Rahul Gandhiji…the whole Congress party is running the country under the Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singhji.
PC: Digvijay Singh’s statements raise a question over Prime Minsiter’s stability.
CPJ: He cleared his views yesterday.
PC: He is the general secretary of AICC.
CPJ: He expressed his views yesterday. That is sufficient in itself.
PC: Joshiji, what is your dream?
CPJ: My dream is.... There is new leadership in this country, Rahul Gandhi, who feels that this country should not be two Indias. In this country, even resident of Bharat should be able to access facilities of India. The poor villagers of this country should get an opportunity to manifest their capability and potential. They should also be able to say with confidence that they have been a participant in taking India ahead, of which he also receives benefits of opportunities. Our leadership is working towards India such country. I am proud that my leadership has given me this opportunity to play a role in building India.
PC: May your wishes come true.
CPJ: Thank You