NEW DELHI: After launching highway projects worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore that were stuck on account of various regulatory hurdles, the government is all set to roll out Rs 2 lakh crore worth of infrastructure projects this year, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadari said today.

“We have cleared bottlenecks. It is easy to construct express highways but difficult to get environment clearance. However, we are removing hurdles. We have cleared projects worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Now this year we will launch projects worth Rs 2 lakh crore,” Gadkari said addressing the annual convention of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers here.

Gadkari said his Ministry was also looking to build two lakh Km of roads under public-private-partnership (PPP) mode which includes widening of existing one lakh km of highways.

“We are fast-tracking the decision making and weeding out corruption and red-tapism from government functioning besides introducing innovation,” he said.

There is no dearth of money to fund the projects and the Ministry if need be can garner more funds through securitisation of toll revenue which amounted to about Rs 1.8 lakh crore in 15 years besides raising funds through infrastructure bonds worth Rs 10,000 crore.

A number of steps, he said, has been initiated to bring in wide reforms in the highways sector including launch of 350 electronic toll plazas by December and building amenities for drivers and commuters on every 50 km stretch for which bids have already been floated for consultancy and design of 270 such facilities.

He said the draft for the new Motor Vehicles legislation expected to be passed in the upcoming Winter Session will be launched on Website by tomorrow seeking suggestions from stakeholders.

“The present Motor Vehicles Act has turned obsolete and the new draft has been prepared incorporating the best practises in six advanced nations – US, Japan, Germany, UK, Singapore and Australia,” he said.

He also appealed to SIAM on the need for introducing ethanol-friendly engines to cut on the huge Rs 6 lakh crore annual bills on import of crude in the country to which SIAM leaders expressed concern and said “there was not enough ethanol available at present.”

Gadkari said government was also focusing on boosting waterways for transportation of cargo and planned introducing sea-planes, airport-like terminals on Ganga besides shipment of cargo through waterway which was much cost-friendly.

Also, a new policy for shipbuilding was on the anvil besides promotion of cruise shipping including that of the Kochi to Andaman & Nicobar islands.
ON Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided that various ministries can now approve projects up to Rs 1000 crore without the Cabinet approval.

Till now the process entailed inter-ministerial discussions, Finance Ministry being kept in loop and finally the cabinet approval, ET Now reported.

According to ET Now, the ministries were required to seek Cabinet approval for projects above Rs 200 crore. The five fold hike in the discretionary spending power of ministries is meant to allow faster clearances of projects, particularly those related to infrastructure.
The infrastructure sector is a key focus area for the Modi-led government. The Centre is keen to speed up infrastructure development and investment to boost economic growth which remained at sub-5 per cent level during the previous two fiscals.

Last week it was reported that the government is set to finalise the policy for implementing its ambitious plan to convert 100 existing cities into smart cities, where it will allow large-scale participation of private sector.

Apart from the 100 existing cities that will be retrofitted to smart cities, the government is also considering developing three-four greenfield cities, urban development secretary Shankar Aggarwal told ET. A key to developing the smart cities will be unravelling the large number of rules and regulations that have slowed down development for years, the secretary said.

PM Modi has already asked the government to revisit all old rules and regulations, manuals and laws, and cut them down wherever needed.