Railways, telecom & IT: Engines of the economy | On the fast trackThe government’s relentless focus on ensuring the seamless progress of initiatives in these realms has become a key factor in shaping India’s growth story                 GETTING DOWN TO BRASS TACKS: Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw with India Today Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa and Deputy Editor Anilesh S. Mahajan (Photographs by Chandradeep Kumar, Rajwant Rawat) At a time when the Indian Railways has got double the capital budget outlay and other sectors such as telecom and information technology are making rapid strides, playing a critical role in India’s growth story, Union minister for railways, communications, electronics & information technology Ashwini Vaishnaw lists out the achievements of the departments under him and spells out his priorities.Lengthening the tracksOur economy is growing at about 6- per cent. This means that the demand for logistics also is growing at a pace that is faster than this. If we were to depend only on roads, imagine how much more pollution and how much more oil requirement there will be. So, that’s why our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji is executing a very well-thought-through strategy. In the past nine and a half years, 40,000 km of railway tracks have been electrified. Now, the focus is on laying more tracks. So, in the same period, we have laid about 25,000 km of tracks. Last year itself, we laid about 5,200 km of tracks.              Push for cargo movementOur target is 35 per cent by 2030. And with that, our dependence on oil imports should significantly reduce, and over a period of, let’s say from 2030 to 2047, we should do about 55 per cent of the cargo by rail.Fast pace of bullet train!We have already constructed about 235 km of it, and it’s going on very well. Recently, the Japanese PM sent a special delegation to see how India is progressing so fast. There are industries from Rajkot, Vadodara that have become exporters of the technology.Expanding the networkThe way Shri Atalji did four-laning of highwaysâ€æexactly in the same way, Modiji is four-laning some places and six-laning most of the large railway sections.The self-reliance modeOur PM has very categorically mandated that in every important technology, we have to become aatmanirbhar. Railways, telecom, digital, practically every large, complex technologyâ€æsome of these technologies we have not only mastered, but have also started exporting. Today, Made in India (telecom) equipment is getting exported to 40-plus countries.â€æ Our Vande Bharat trains have helped us master five key technologies, which position us to be able to design the bullet trains.Upgrade of RailwaysOur coach production, our locomotive production, our wagon production, everything is almost multiplied.â€æ What has really gone in is huge investment in safety.â€æ The number of accidents during 2004-14 used to be about 170 a year. That number has now drastically come down to about 45 accidents a year. In Modiji’s third term, you will see a large capacity increase in Railways, you will see a huge shift of cargo from road to railâ€æbetter passenger experienceâ€æ about a thousand stations already constructed according to world-class standards.Being safe with KavachThe entire world moved to these (automatic train protection) systems in the 1990s. Now, when did India start on this journey? 2016… what was the Congress doing all these years?Privatisation of RailwaysI’ve told it on the floor of Parliament: we are not privatising railways… We are very clear about it. Railways is a very, very complex system. It’s not a system that anybody can understand in a few years.5G catching speedWe have jumped about 78 positions in the global test. On network satisfaction, we have now 32 per cent increase in network satisfaction.‘Duopoly’ in telecom?We have done everything that was possible to doâ€æ We have made sure that the industry comes out of its legacy issues of series of litigations… it is now healthy… Close to Rs 1.5 lakh crore investment has happened. India’s telecom sector is being viewed as a sunrise sector. And we’ll see good competition, good technology and good quality of service.Reviving BSNLToday, BSNL has a very healthy balance sheet… In the coming 12 months, you’ll see BSNL as a healthy company, which has a significantly stabilising influence on the market.Making in IndiaWe have just approved and announced that 27 companies will be manufacturing laptops, tablets and servers, many of them designed in India.Ports, shipping & waterways: A deep dive | Navigating a maritime futureThe plethora of initiatives taken in shipping and allied sectors have made India a vital force in the global maritime industry                 Sarbananda Sonowal A key factor that makes Indian ports a vital gateway to the world is their geographical location, connecting Southeast Asia, West Asia and Africa. Union minister of ports, shipping and waterways Sarbananda Sonowal charts the rapid strides India’s ports and allied sectors have made since 2014.SagarmalaIn the last eight years, various initiatives under the SagarMala programme have helped in lowering overall operational cost of ports, reducing turnaround time for vessels, increasing efficiency, adding ability to handle larger ships, and developing strategic importance of Indian ports in the South Asian region. This helped the ports transport a record $450 billion worth of goods in 2022-23.Gati ShaktiThanks to the initiatives under Prime Minister Gati Shakti National Master Plan and National Logistic Policy 2022, India’s major ports are seeing double digit annual growth. As per the recent World Bank Logistic Performance Index report, India moved up from 44th rank in the international shipment category in 2019 to 22nd in 2022. In shipment delivery times, the country jumped from 52nd position in 2018 to 35th in 2023. Today, our average container turnaround time—0.9 days—is better than countries such as the US, Germany, Canada and Australia.              Cargo boostThe aim is to boost cargo handling by our ports to 7,000 million tonne per annum, from the current 1,300 million tonne. We anticipate that by 2030, more than 85 per cent of cargo will be handled at landlord ports, eventually culminating in full transition by 2047. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority has already achieved 100 per cent PPP operated port status under this model. At the recently concluded Global Maritime India Summit 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ambitious Maritime ‘Amritkal’ Vision 2047, aimed at unlocking investment worth Rs 80 lakh crore for the development of the maritime sector. In just three days, the summit secured investment commitments of more than Rs 10 lakh crore.Harit SagarThe maritime industry also has a critical role to play in mitigating climate change. The ‘Harit Sagar’ guidelines incorporate green initiatives in all major and non-major ports. The concept of the smart port is central to our vision with facilities such as e-gate, 2.0 robotic automation, drone-based inventory management and intelligent track booking. India’s shipbuilding and repair sector is poised for monumental growth, and aims to be among the top five global players. Shipbuilding and repair clusters will emerge in strategic locations such as Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Gujarat, Goa, Visakhapatnam, Andaman and Nicobar and Odisha. Our commitments extend to ship recycling as well. India aspires to be the world leader in this domain. Autonomous vessel technology is a burgeoning industry, and we are proud to lead the way with projects like the delivery of autonomous electric barges to Norway by the Cochin Shipyard Ltd.Regional waterwaysOur focus on the development of a 5,000-km regional waterways grid primarily comprising four key waterways and certain international routes will help facilitate regional trade in South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. At the G20 summit, we announced a pathbreaking initiative, the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). It will connect India to the Middle East nations through shipping lines. This will also encompass our focus on next generation mega ports. The development of Vadhvan port in Maharashtra and Tuna in Gujarat will be key to the success of IMEC.Maritime India Vision 2030The Maritime India Vision 2030 seeks to establish India as the premier cruise hub in the Asia-Pacific region. To achieve this goal, we’ll have state-of-the-art cruise terminals, standardised procedures and e-visa facilities. The objective is to increase the annual number of cruise passengers in India to 5 million by 2047, from 472,000 now. By then, India will have 25 operational cruise terminals. Recently, MV Ganga Vilas created a world record by completing the 3,200-km-long voyage from Benares to Dibrugarh through Bangladesh.Renewable energy: Karnataka ahead | Now, a renewable force tooOne of the earliest states to have electrification, Karnataka is also the pioneer of renewable energy production in the country                 K.J. George Power production started in Karnataka in 1902, under the then Maharaja of Mysore, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. As he discloses that nugget of information, the state’s energy minister K.J. George outlines how Karnataka came to a pioneer in the field of renewable energy.Pavagada Solar ProjectThe Pavagada solar project (in Tumkur district) was started in 2016 (commissioned in 2018) during Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s first term over 13,000 acres and was the largest solar park in India at the time. The energy department is working on expanding it. It produces around 2,200 MW electricity. Officials and technocrats have pitched in, too. However, it could only come to fruition with the partnership with farmers. The state didn’t acquire land for this purpose; it had taken it on lease from farmers. The farmers have come forward and offered the state another 10,000 acres.Pumped storage hydropowerToday, 51 per cent of Karnataka’s installed electricity generation capacity comes from renewable energy—the highest in the country. But how to store the electricity? Karnataka has got enough places to store the electricity as pumped storage. Excess energy can be used to pump and store water in reservoirs at higher altitude. Later, the stored water can be pumped and power generated—cheaper, renewable energy. Once the reservoirs have water, power can be generated within five minutes.The latest green sourceThe future of energy lies in Green Hyd­­rogen. Karnataka is drafting a policy for green hydrogen. To go ahead, the Centre’s support is needed, along with necessary investment. With large-scale expansion of renewable energy like solar and wind power, a hybrid energy model is being created. Wind and solar energy can be used and stored, too, like in pumped storage. These are the main poi­nts of Karnataka’s new model of energy.Roads, rail, airports: UP shows the way | A powerhouse in the makingBe it infrastructure development, attracting investment or agricultural production, Uttar Pradesh is now a leader among states                 Manoj Kumar Singh The new Uttar Pradesh is full of new hope and confidence, says the state’s Additional Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar Singh, who is also UP’s Agriculture Production and Infrastructure and Industrial Development Commissioner.Building capacitiesUttar Pradesh accounts for around 35 per cent of access-controlled expressways in the country. Within a year, the Ganga Expressway will be ready. We have the second-largest network of roads, the largest network of railways, the largest network of operational airports and very soon will have the largest airport in Asia, in Jewar. After Noida was set up as an industrial town in 1976, the government has decided to create another industrial area in Jhansi, for which the state will acquire 36,000 acres. The industrial department has one portal—Nivesh Mitra—which handles all applications. To incentivise investment, 25 sectoral policies have been notified by different departments. UP is No. 2 in ease of business across India. After the Kashi Vishwanath temple corridors, similar structures around Maa Vindhyavasini temple are being developed. All this has given a boost to tourism. The inflow of domestic tourists last year was 240 million, equalling UP’s population. One of the two defence corridors sanctioned in the country will be in UP and a new expressway across 12 districts, the longest in India, is being planned in Bundelkhand. The government is planning a solar park on 1,700 acres on both sides of the 300-km-long expressway. Last year, in the global investors’ summit, the state received intents of investment of around Rs 33 lakh crore, and over 22,000 MoUs were signed. To attract FDI, the government is giving 75 per cent concession on land.Banking, crop dynamoIn around 36,000 of UP’s 58,000 gram panchayats, self-help group members have been trained to become banking correspondents who help the rural population access facilities. Transactions under direct benefit transfer schemes in UP are worth Rs 70,000 crore annually.In over 14 agriculture/ horticulture/ dairy produce, including milk, wheat, potato and mango, UP ranks first in the country—a real powerhouse that produces 17 per cent of India’s foodgrain production. Around 70 per cent of the land mass is arable, out of which 80 per cent is irrigated. UP is taking various steps to increase productivity by two-three times by using latest technologies. These are some glimpses of the turnaround UP has been witnessing.Service delivery: The Haryana model | Reaching the unreachedHow a citizen resource information initiative is transforming the delivery of services                 V. Umashankar, Principal Secretary, Citizen Resource Information Department, Haryana The Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP) initiative in Haryana grew out of the vision of its chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar. Principal secretary V. Umashankar shares how the government has been trying out various mechanisms to put it in place from 2015.Significance of identityPPP essentially builds layers on Aadhaar and retains a lot more socioeconomic data intended for the purpose of giving benefits and services to the people. We have been at it for the last three years now. The normal approach of governance is that citizens apply for a particular scheme and on the basis of the application, the benefit gets processed. We have seen a few advances over the last decade. First, Aadhaar has come in as a unique identity of a person, and second, there’s the direct benefit transfer mechanism. Now, it is time to progress on to the next stage, where a citizen does not need to apply for a benefit, and the system automatically recognises beneficiaries. So, it’s completely inverting the citizen-government interface, where the government goes to the doorstep of the citizen instead of the citizen applying for a benefit. And at the core of that infra is PPP. For example, nobody in Haryana needs to apply for a ration card now. The system recognises beneficiaries every month, and he or she can just go to the nearest ration shop and start receiving benefits.A realistic pictureUnemployment in Haryana is around 6 per cent, according to PPP data. It depends on the question that you ask because in the CMIE [Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy] survey, the question asked is not whether you are employed or not, but if you are actively looking for work. What we found is that aspirations, especially in these areas, are high. You might be engaged in something and there is a rush for, say, a government job in the north. So, when you ask a person whether they are actively looking for work, it does not mean that they are unemployed right now. It just means that they are looking for a better job. At one point, the CMIE reported an unemployment figure of 37 per cent. It doesn’t seem logical.The right approachThere have been ration cards that have been cut and there have been people who have been detected who have been taking these pensions wrongly, but the approach is not that we need to make a saving, it is, can we reach that person who is otherwise troubled? There have been a lot more additions than deletions. This programme enables the unreached to be reached, and that is the goal, that is the objective.Renewable Energy: Towards a sustainable future | Keeping green promisesA boost to renewable energy production is an imperative with India setting a bold target of meeting 50 per cent of its power requirement from clean fuels by 2030                 Bhupinder Singh Bhalla (left) and Ajay Mathur The 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or the COP28, is being held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12. At this critical juncture, Bhupinder Singh Bhalla, secretary, ministry of new & renewable energy, and Ajay Mathur, director general, International Solar Alliance, discussed what India—having set some challenging renewable energy targets for itself—brings to the global table.The bold targetsBhalla: We have said that we would like to have 50 per cent of power capacity by 2030 from non-fossil fuels. The second commitment we have made is that the energy intensity of the economy would reduce by 45 per cent vis-a-vis the 2005 level by 2030. Apart from that, we’ve also announced that we would like to be energy independent by 2047 and we would like to achieve net zero emissions by 2070. So, these are the larger goals which kind of drive how we in the renewable energy sector functionâ€æ. Currently, we have a non-fossil capacity of 186 GW installed in the country as on October this year. Our target is, and our honourable prime minister has also announced, to achieve 500 GW of renewable energy, of non-fossil capacity, in the country by 2030.Mathur: We are focusing on tripling the renewable energy goals for 2030. So, if India is at, say, 140 or 150 GW as it was at the time of the G20 meeting, we are looking at approximately 500 GW now. I personally believe it will be much more than that.Tapping clean sourcesMathur: For vast areas of the world without electricity, solar mini grids are important. Because of a fall in prices in solar PV and batteries, we can look at a trade-off. So, if you have to extend the grid by more than 10 km, solar plus battery is a cheaper option. And, therefore, the only way that we can meet the provision of electricity to all by 2030 is by solar mini gridsâ€æ. We also have to focus on financing. In 2022, around $310 billion (Rs 25.9 lakh crore) worlwide was invested in solar power…this year, it’ll be about $380 billion (Rs 31.7 lakh crore), but hardly 3 per cent goes to Africa. India has a huge learning. We created a payment guarantee mechanism in the Solar Energy Corporation of India, which has enabled a lot of solar capacity to be developed. Investors came in, who saw this as an opportunity in which they would get their returns on time. We need a global payment guarantee mechanism, especially for Africa to pull in money there.Bhalla: The government announced the National Green Hydrogen Mission in January this year, and came out with the bid for manufacturing electrolysers [apparatus that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules using electricity] as well as green hydrogen production. Its budget is around Rs 20,000 crore till 2030. The government is hopeful that by mid-2024, Rs 17,500 crore of subsidies would be allocated to companies…. Other than the incentive, the Centre’s R&D roadmap will also help in this. Moreover, it is assumed that about 60-70 per cent of India’s green hydrogen would be exported.The storage storyBhalla: Battery is going to be an increasing mainstay of renewable energy. Our estimate is that by 2027, we would start needing about 50 GWh of installed battery capacity, which would rise to about 250 GWh by 2030. So, we have to step on it.Mathur: Storage is not an electricity generation source of its own. It provides reliabilityâ€æ. There are three ways in which the lowering of costs occurs. First, new deposits are found. We are finding more lithium where we did not expect it, like in Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan. Secondly, because of competitive pressures, the amount of lithium per battery reduces. Thirdly, new kinds of batteries come up. So instead of lithium, you have sodium ion batteries. Commercialisation will depend on scale.Renewable energy: A paradigm shift | Clean power imperativeIndia’s green energy transition demands a sweeping overhaul of the sector—from infrastructure to financing and from hybrid systems to favourable regulations              Green energy will play a pivotal role as India charts a course towards a sustainable future. But this, per Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the think tank Council on Energy, Environment & Water, and Rajib K. Mishra, CMD of the power trading firm PTC India, will require a fundamental shift in our current energy landscape.Energy boostMishra: We have 430 GW of installed power capacity and 74 per cent comes from conventional sources. We have to move on to more environment-friendly renewable energyâ€æfocus on four pillars: land acquisition, transmission infrastructure or green corridor, availability of financing and enabling regulations to make it more affordable and integrated with the existing system.Ghosh: When it comes to India’s solar and renewable story, the sun has already risen. In 2010, when the National Solar Mission began, we had less than 20 MW of solar power. We have now exceeded 70,000 MW. But the original target of 175 GW of renewables has now become 175 GW of non-fossil fuels, which we have crossed. For this decade, we need to go beyond to the more hybrid systems, the distributed energy systems. And along with our decarbonisation story, we have to tap into our digital infrastructure story and make the two converge.Commercial viabilityGhosh: In India, we need an ‘efficient coal-plus-renewable versus inefficient coal’ story. We’ve got to stop thinking about clean energy as just an environmental issueâ€æthis decade alone, our renewable story, our green hydrogen story, and our electric mobility story together offer an infrastructure investment opportunity of at least $500 billion (Rs 41.7 lakh crore). We’ve just not put it under one legislation.Mishra: The states have to look at the incremental cost of procuring power. If the variable cost of the old thermal plants is more than what they get from the renewable, they will never run that plant. And since they are now accountable, they also have to go to the state regulatory commission each year.In mission modeGhosh: In January, the cabinet approved the world’s second-largest green hydrogen mission after the US. Their target for 2030 is 10 million tonnes per annum; ours is 5 million tonnes. That is huge. But we have to focus on two things as we push the mission forward: keep the domestic market’s needs before the international market’s and focus on ‘demand pull’ in addition to ‘supply push’.Aviation: Promises & air pockets | Charting a new flight planIndia needs to resolve the structural challenges that confront the aviation industry to make the best of the ever-widening opportunities              With domestic air traffic rising 10 per cent in October compared to last year, India is flying again. Though the airline industry has recovered well from the pandemic, it battles high fuel costs, with precarious financials plaguing a few airlines. Amber Dubey, senior advisor, McKinsey & Company, and Kapil Kaul, CEO and director, CAPA India, discussed the industry’s future course.In a robust stateDubey: Pre-Covid, the airlines industry used to carry around 140 million passengers a year. In 2023, for the first time, it is likely to cross the 150 million mark. Next year will be the upsurge year and 2025 the breakout year.Airlines in troubleDubey: As the turbulence faced by Jet Airways, Go Air and Akasa Air shows, the sector faces structural challenges, with the highest cost structure along with one of the lowest fares in the world. The next one or 10 million passengers will come from middle income segments. So, the paying capacity is limited, whereas cost keeps going up. Aviation fuel is 35-40 per cent of the cost structure. Around 18 or 20 states have reduced tax on aviation fuel to below 5 per cent, but some big states continue to be in the 20-plus range. Constrained airport capacity is an problem, though that’s getting resolved. MRO—maintenance, repair & overhaul—presents a challenge as most of aircraft go out for repairs. Shortage of pilots is a big issue. India needs more flying schools.Kaul: Future growth in the industry, especially domestic air travel, will be driven by low-cost airlines. Air India’s acquisition by Tata is a game-changer.Policy on dronesDubey: Drones are the future of aviation. It has huge impact at the grassroots level, too–agriculture, road, railways, power and telecom etc. The government’s Drone Rules 2021 is in favour of growth, while keeping an eye on safety and security. The Centre’s Production Linked Incentive scheme, the drone certification scheme and the import ban on foreign drones will give a fillip to the domestic drone industry. There is need for a design- or research-linked incentive. Unless Indian firms own the IP [intellectual property], they will remain assemblers of foreign-made drones.Kaul: In two years, the entire travel ecosystem will change. India must make full use of its highest ever airport capacities and increasing travel penetration. Two airlines having 90 per cent market share presents a challenge vis-a-vis institutional measures in terms of competition and consumer interest. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has to be recast and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security overhauled. There has to be more strategic competence in the regulatory and policy-making level too.Dubey: Stress should be on maintenance in India, research in India, cargo in India and train in India, and not just on Make in India.Ports: Our gateways to the world | An ocean of opportunitiesIndia’s 7,500-km-long coastline offers vast potential. Experts discuss how to make the best use of that geographical advantage              India has one of the highest logistics costs at 18 per cent of the country’s GDP. In an effort to mitigate that challenge, the central government is exploring waterways as an effective solution. Bhushan Kumar, joint secretary (SagarMala), Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, and Rathendra Raman, chairman, Kolkata Port Trust, discuss how Indian ports act as our gateways to the world.The Sagarmala visionKumar: India has a long coastline of 7,500 km with 200 ports. Of these, 80 are handling exports and imports. Making them world-class and bringing down their logistical cost is a huge challenge. To improve the quality of infrastructure, the turnaround time and to bring down the cost, the government of India launched the SagarMala project in 2015. We are working in coordination with states to improve infrastructure. There are five verticals under SagarMala.The first one is port modernisation. Under SagarMala, we have 830 projects, of which nearly 230 are only for modernisation, where we are trying to revamp, create new infrastructure, add new cranes, bring in PPP investments and establish industries near ports.The second vertical is industrialisation, where we are encouraging EXIM (export-import)-oriented industries to set up their facilities in port areas so that they need not spend money in transportation.The third one is connectivity. Ports need world-class road and rail links. Around 298 projects worth Rs 2 lakh crore are in the works to enhance connectivity. Nearly 80 of these have already been completed.The fourth one is coastal shipping and inland waterways. India has 111 waterways, and the government wants to promote more trade movement through these. The cargo volume in the last 10 years has jumped from 8 million to 130 million. In coastal shipping also, there is a huge jump—from 20-30 million tonnes to around 150 million tonnes. We are creating a dedicated bus for coastal shipping.The fifth vertical is skill development. We are providing 100 per cent funding support to skill people and are also taking fishermen onboard, training them, modernising their fishing harbour, and creating new ones.What sets the Kolkata Port apart              Raman: The 153-year-old Kolkata Port, officially known as the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, is a unique one with a two-dock system—Kolkata Dock System and the Haldia Dock Complex. It is a riverine port with a draft challenge—major vessels cannot come inside. But it has its own advantages. The port is well connected to most of eastern and northeastern states. We have initiated a number of steps for modernisation.In the last seven years, we have increased capacity from 71 million tonnes to 87 million tonnes. In the next seven years, we hope to enhance it by 30 million tonnes. We also see a lot of opportunities for river cruise as we have locations such as the Sundarbans, Mayapur, and Raychak near Kolkata.Infrastructure financing: How to get it right | Creating a private spaceExperts deliberate on the role of the private sector in India’s infrastructure development and the key hurdles that the government needs to ease              Charan Singh, non-executive chairman of the Punjab & Sind Bank, Amit Kapoor, joint managing partner at Jyoti Sagar Associates, and Harry Dhaul, director-general of Independent Power Producers Association of India, talk of the challenges in infrastructure financing in India and ways to overcome them.The future of IPPsDhaul: The situation with independent power projects (IPPs) now is a bit different. This government has turned it around 180 degrees; now, international investors are coming to India because it is a country worth investing in. However, the question is that India does not have long-term finance. We do not have a debt market. So, you can’t take a debt instrument, how you trade equity, you are not able to trade debt. We need the government to come up with a strategy where everyone should understand that they can become not only an electricity consumer but also an electricity generator.Encouraging the private sectorSingh: One of the most important things in India is that 75 per cent of its infrastructure projects are financed by the government, and 15 per cent by urban local bodies. If it’s the government that is playing a key role, bankers, especially public sector banks, feel safe because there is a standard guarantee when a government backs a project.Only about 5 per cent of our infrastructure projects are from the private sector. The initial infrastructure is done by the government, and then there is a trigger and the private sector takes it forward. Local administration and politicians must also play a role in establishing credibility if it’s a 75-year project. It is a long, long exercise, and a difficult one, but all stakeholders will have to play a role in it.How to ‘de-risk’ projectsKapoor: Infrastructure in a democratic set-up is, fundamentally, the responsibility of the state. Now you want the private sector to come in, good idea. But you want it to start absorbing policy issues and subsidy burdens, which is not a part of the plan for the sector. Look at the core problem: if you want to create an asset of 60 years, you want to make available long-term finance. There is a need for a rethink in resolving these problems.Road transport: New dynamics | Betting big on dataHow Gati Shakti and the National Logistics Policy are putting India’s infra on a high growth trajectory              The Centre’s Gati Shakti plan aims to bring all government ministries together and streamline the planning of projects. Sumita Dawra, Special Secretary (Logistics), talks about the ambitious project and how India plans to improve its logistics performance.Tracking our assetsGati Shakti is a tool for infrastructure planning. It brings together all government departments and states on a GIS platform and, today, we have over 1,400 data layers on it. The infra assets of the railway ministry, the road ministry, ports, shipping and renewable energy, power and telecom are all mapped on the platform. Also, social infrastructure such as schools, anganwadi centres, hospitals—you name it, they are all mapped. Similarly, natural resources, forest areas, wildlife sanctuaries. What happens is easy visualisation of the data layers that are needed for planning.Demand-led approachThe National Logistics Policy has a target of taking India’s logistics performance among the top 25 countries in the world by 2030.Another intervention is the Logistics Data Bank, which is also mentioned by the World Bank in its latest Logistic Performance Index Report 2023. It tracks the exim (export-import) containers of the country a 100 per cent. Sixty million containers have been traced in the last six years. This big data analytics is powering reform today.There is a lot of data coming in and we are now seeing how we can utilise it better. China has done a supply-led model to infra development. We are looking at a demand-led approach. We can better predict where we need the next highway, the next augmentation of the railway line, and so on.Infrastructure investments: Twists and turns | For a suitable returnThe government’s big push on infrastructure has yielded dividends, but there’s still miles to go              In 2020, the Naren­dra Modi governm­ent launched the National Infrastr­u­cture Pipeline, aimed at boosting India’s infrastructure with a capital outlay of Rs 100 lakh crore by 2025. The 2023 budget gave a huge boost to capital spending by providing Rs 10 lakh crore, a 33 per cent increase from the previous year. Three top experts, Vinayak Chatterjee of Infravision Foundation, Manish R. Sharma of PwC and L&T’s K.V.B. Reddy, assess the challenges ahead.Bang for the buckVinayak Chatterjee: After the last budget, india today had that roundtable with the finance secretaries and the people who made the budget. A very significant comment was made by the seniormost bureaucrat in the finance ministry. He said they have a confidential report—the government had found out that one rupee spent on infrastructure resulted in 3 rupees of GDP. Whereas one rupee spent on direct benefit transfer resulted in 90 paisa of GDP. So, the math is clear, where do you get bang for the buck is clear. The government has stuck to that rule of pumping in big money in public expenditure under that mantra. This was done on a consistent basis with a 30-35 per cent increase in central budgetary outlays year after year after year.Real estate quagmireManish R. Sharma: A project,when it comes up, will raise the value of real estate. But what we do is bundle the real estate into the PPP. So, lenders who are comfortable with an infrastructure risk and will look at a 9 per cent borrowing and lending rate, suddenly see the real estate being a larger part of the portfolio of revenue, and will start looking at it as a real estate project and not an infrastructure project. That is the mistake we make when designing PPPs.Metro fallaciesK.V.B. Reddy: L&T took on the project [Hyderabad Metro Rail] and it has done almost the total capital outlay of Rs 20,000 crore. They acquired the bid in 2010 but it has seen many hurdles—state division, land acquisition delays, political will waxing and waning. In the PPP model, the state government’s responsibility was to acquire the land free of encumbrances and give it to L&T, which is still not complete. Still, the firm has completed 69.2 km and declared the project fully commissioned.Published By: Aditya Mohan WigPublished On: Dec 1, 2023Must Watch