That infrastructure is key to a country's development is well known. The emphasis on infrastructure development was laid down during the Union Budget too. The government is targeting to remove various bottlenecks for infrastructure development in India. The Transport & Highways and Shipping Minister Mr Nitin Gadkari is working towards the same and has proposed to launch projects worth US$ 32.9 bn during this year itself.
The past has seen governments consistently slip up when it comes to the execution of infrastructure projects, so will Mr Gadkari make a difference?
The biggest culprit of delay in infrastructure projects is land acquisition. As per various sources, perennial delays in acquiring land for the purpose of setting up infrastructure projects are the cause of almost 70% of the 190 large sized infrastructure projects like highways.
So what is the root cause of the problem?
Land acquisition in India is governed by archaic laws that were framed by the British in 1894 and haven't undergone any meaningful revision since then. To address this issue, Mr Gadkari has proposed to acquire atleast 80% of land before floating the projects.
There are several other grey areas which are still to be addressed, like higher vetting time in projects, cost overruns resulting in cost escalation of projects, lack of proper framework and its implementation. Over and above, the problem of red tape persists. Debt has bloated on the books of infra firms and banks are struggling to recover loans. On top of that, some of these projects have failed to get completed on schedule.
While Mr Gadkari's plans seem to be quite optimistic, these fundamental problems need to be addressed first before any 'real' development takes place. Having said that, if things go well, timely and innovative initiation and implementation of policy measures can go a long way in India's development.