The pandemic has caused a slowdown in India but the country's inherent resilience and capability will help it transform into a new India with a faster growth path fuelled by infrastructure, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Friday.
Addressing a virtual event organised by industry body ASSOCHAM, Gadkari further said to achieve the GDP of USD 5 trillion by 2024-25, India needs to spend about USD 1.4 trillion over these years on infrastructure.
"COVID-19 pandemic has caused a slowdown in India. But its inherent resilience and capability will help it transform into a new India with an accelerated growth path fuelled by infrastructure," the Road Transport and Highways minister said.
Gadkari criticised steel and cement companies for indulging in cartelisation and exploiting people and announced that his ministry is setting up a committee under the chairmanship of K Venkataramana to reduce the dependency on steel and cement to reduce the cost of construction and look for alternatives.
"I am very much worried about the attitude, approach and behaviour of steel and cement industry, " he rued adding India needs new technology to reduce demand of steel and cement.
"People (steel and cement company owners) who are taking advantage of system are not correct, somewhere we need to take stand on this issue. Every day they are changing prices, that is why I am fed up with them," the minister complained.
Gadkari stated that all steel-whether produced from ore, billets, pellets, or melting of scrap - would be allowed to be used for National Highway construction, as long as it meets the standards required for specific grades of steel.
“The steel proposed to be used would be tested in NABL-accredited laboratories as a third party check before approval,” he said.
Gadkari said his ministry has managed "Firstly, we have managed to achieve a record by constructing 37 km to achieve three world records recently.
"Firstly, we have managed to achieve a record by constructing 37 km of road per day during 2020-21. Secondly, the construction of a 2.5 km four-lane concrete road was achieved in a matter of 24 hours.
"Our ministry also achieved a record by constructing a 26 km one-lane road in 24 hours flat. This is due to the efforts put by our engineers, contractors and workers,” he said.
Gadkari added that his ministry has constructed 13,327 km of National Highways up to March 2021 as compared to 10,237 km in the year-ago period.
"The award figure is 10,965 km during this period as compared to 8,948 km in the previous year. This kind of performance was never done earlier,” he noted.
Gadkari also noted that banks are not supporting competent and small contractors.
"Bank guarantee and financial closure are becoming problem in case the hybrid annuity model (HAM) for building National Highways," he pointed out.
The government had approved HAM for building National Highways to speed up the construction of roads in the country by renewing interest of private developers in highway projects.
Under HAM, 40 per cent of the project cost is to be provided by the government as construction support during the construction period and the balance 60 per cent is arranged by the developer as annuity payments over the operation period along with interest thereon to the concessionaire.
Noting that only big contractors who are financially strong and have good relations with banks, are getting the advantage, Gadkari said,"the people who are competent but banks are not supporting them, they are not in a position to bid for highway projects."
The minister also pointed out that contractors of National Highways are not planting trees by managing government officials. Gadkari also said his ministry is hiring experts as members of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for speedy implementation of projects.
"I always distrust people who don't take decision on time," he said.