For a completely government-funded project, PMGSYÂ’s social and economic effectiveness is beyond question. But quality management and delays in implementation are a concern, says NC Solanki, Director, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), in a conversation with Sumantra Das.
Why is the PMGSY project completion delayed by six years?
Originally the completion time of the project was 2007, but after the commencement of the scheme, there are various things added to the project. At the same time, the habitations have also increased in some of the states, so also our target. In some states, we have to take habitation of main area along with its 10 km surroundings too. In Rajasthan, there are so many habitations gained in this way. Thus, our target has increased heavily which are nearly habitation categories. Besides, to create knowledge about the programme is the responsibility of state government, not ours.
So, are there issues with state governments?
Yes, because most of them do not have the system in place like any in infrastructure projects. They are not having the contractors with them for such projects so does their speed of work on projects are very slow. Besides, in some areas, there are difficulties such as Naxalite areas or in hilly areas where states are finding their own difficulties. All these factors are slowing down the pace of PMGSY project.
Policy makers have given some emphasis on infrastructure development in 12th Five Year Plan. How much would this translate into rural roads sector?
I think that will also translate to rural roads sector. In the coming days growth opportunity will come from rural areas and growth will only come through a better connectivity. We have made some studies on the same where it stated that our road infrastructure has increased just like transportation from the village to the market centre.
How much of that outlay should attract private investment into it?
Actually private investments are not happening as projects are small in size. But we have tried for the public-private partnership (PPP) mode also but we are very discouraged because nobody is coming on that mode too. By connecting one village, private developers cannot generate the revenue as any other highway projects so private investment is not possible in this segment. According to me, only government undertaÂkings can do such project.
Is the government planning to augment private participation?
We have already asked the state government to prepare some of the projects in the PPP model but they have not prepared as nobody is coming forward for the project.
Since one of the major complaints with local contractor is quality, how can rural road projects achieve skill to attract competition from bigger players who can assure quality?
The quality of roads is the first motto of our project. We are having three-tier quality control systems. One, we insist the contractor to install his own laboratory per his package that is the first quality control system. The second quality control system is where we are insisting the state government to deploy the state quality monitor that those are the independent persons from the organisation. Those are looking into the quality and treasury from the National Rural Roads Development Agency (NRRDA).
Moreover, we are spending some the national quality monitor from the states and if we find any problem in any road we ask the state to obtain the action taken report (ATR) update and if the ATR is not recoverable or that cannot be proper to be done, in that case we can recover the complete amount from the state government also. When we are saying that this road is not constructed as per our norm and we are not performing the quality, so complete cost is recovered from the state. In Rajasthan we have several such instances.
How can the tendering process for awarding rural road projects be improved?
We have first initiated complete e-tendering system for all the roads and all the states are also doing the e-tendering. The system is most transparent compare to any other system.
Is there anything that could create viability to enhance rural roads projects?
Actually, PMGSY is not a viability assessed project. This is the requirement of people and thus it is the responsibility of the government to provide the basic needs to all villagers. In Arunachal Pradesh, we went to create a 150 km road land for a single habitation with a population of only 1,000 people. Clearly, this is not a viability assessed project, this is a need-assessed project.
How do funding agencies like NABARD, ADB and the World Bank see rural road finance?
Actually, Government of India is funding the project and we take the loan from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and of course sometimes from NABARD also. However, majority of funding is from the Government of India whereas from World Bank and ADB, besides funding, they also provide technical support and best international practices to us.
Recently, we have taken $1.5 billion loan from the World Bank, and $800 million from ADB.
How much are you targeting for the financial year of 2013-14?
In this financial year, we have budgeted amount of Rs 21,000 crore and we will plan it accordingly. Most probably in this year we will be able to construct 40,000-50,000 km. With this completion of work, we will be able to complete 60-70 per cent of existing work PMGSY project.