Mumbai infrastructure

NEW DELHI: In an ambitious drive to step up infrastructure investment and speed up execution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set targets for key ministries that have to be delivered by end of the financial year to effect visible change on ground. “Targets for infrastructure sectors have been approved by the Prime Minister and communicated to ministries. These will now be regularly monitored by NITI Aayog and reviewed by the Prime Minister himself on a quarterly basis,” a government official told the Economic Times.

The high-level intervention comes after NITI Aayog made sectoral presentations to Modi last month, highlighting tardiness in many areas. Targets were communicated last week to infrastructure sector ministries of railways, roads, ports, civil aviation and others, with detailed timelines. The Prime Minister has identified 26 action points under 12 heads for roads and 36 action points for railways under about a dozen heads that need quick action by ministries to implement them in a time-bound manner.

NITI Aayog presentations had flagged the progress in the last two areas —shortcomings and action points. Similar targets have been set for others as well, such as the number of villages that have to be electrified. Deadlines for these actions range from three months to up to three years for different key actions and there is clear indication that Modi does not want any slippage.

Some big-ticket interventions include raising long-term funding for road projects, developing a contractor rating system that would incentivise early project completion, bringing about organisational reforms in Indian Railways, improvement in governance structure by setting up an independent regulator to correct tariff imbalance in railways. The ministry of road transport and highways has been asked to finalise highway network expansion and operations plan for next three years by September this year, while accelerating the rate of construction of roads in the North-East by six months to November 2016.

Indian Railways has been asked to increase the total lines commissioned from 7-8 km per day to 10 km per day by FY2017 and 15 km per day by FY2019 besides increasing the average speed of freight and passenger trains by 5 km per year every year for next five years.

The meeting has also tasked the ministries for roads and finance to expedite finalisation of PPP renegotiation framework and public contracts bill by September 2016. NITI Aayog has to steer progress and has — at a recent meeting with Modi — already identified nodal ministries/divisions that would be made accountable for all hits and misses. In absence of private investment, the government is now counting on public investment to drive growth and has a spending target of Rs 7 lakh crore Rs 3 lakh crore from budget and Rs 4 lakh crore from resources of public enterprises. It is keen that this amount is fully utilised.