‘Tapping Ganga’s potential, transparency in Min top agenda’

New Delhi:  Restoring Ganga’s glory and tapping its potential as an internal transport mode along with “full transparency” in Ministry’s functioning lie top on the agenda of Nitin Jairam Gadkari, who assumed charge of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Ministry today.

“It is my dream to restore sacred Ganga’s glory and utilise this ancient river’s full potential by using it as a waterway from Gangotri to Kanpur and Kanpur to Patna to transport cargo and man,” Gadkari told PTI after taking charge of the crucial infrastructure ministries.

He said, “I will soon hold a meeting with key officials of the Ministry to chart out ways for transforming this ancient river into a mode for cargo and public transport. We will assess the possibilities of dredging and other measures.”

Cleanliness of Ganga has been in our manifesto, he added.

The former BJP President, who is known for his passion for infrastructure segment said he has been entrusted with a huge task of overhauling the sector and “fortunately” has a grasp over toll, highways and other issues.

“There will be no hanky-panky business here. There will be full transparency, full accountability and e-governance,” he said, adding that there would be no “favouritism and nepotism”.

Turning nostalgic, he said he had come to the Transport Minister’s chamber for the first time in 1997 for the country’s first road project on build, operate and transfer (BOT).

“Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had entrusted me with two challenging tasks – linking villages under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) and converting National Highways into four-lanes. My report on these were approved within a fortnight by former President APJ Abdul Kalam,” he said, adding that it would be his commitment to “develop” the sector.

Earlier, addressing media he said he had expertise in building flyovers and highways and would work for the growth of the sector.

He said developing agriculture, water, power and communication sectors were needed for creation of employment and the industry too played a pivotal role in creating employment.

Known as an able administrator with innovative approaches in infrastructure space, he faces the challenges of reviving the road and shipping sectors where bidders have been shying away from projects and a mammoth task of capacity building lies ahead.

The highways sector is battling a score of issues amid stalled projects worth at least Rs 1.5 lakh crore on account of various regulatory hurdles and premium issues.

Born in a middle-class agricultural family in Nagpur, Nitin Gadkari hit the spotlight for giving his city a new face through development work and also earned the nickname of ‘flyover’ man during his stint as the PWD Minister for building a series of flyovers in Mumbai.

As the PWD Minister between 1995 and 1999, he gained his first experience to undertake infrastructure projects. He has been quoted as having said that with Rs 5, he earned the distinction of completing works worth Rs 8,000 crore.

The success of the Mumbai-Pune expressway also brought him fame, with the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee asking him to launch the national highway authority.

The highways sector had hit a low during the last few years, and the Modi-government is expected to inject a new life into the infrastructure sector.

On the other hand, the shipping sector has been showing poor performance too. It is poised for huge capacity augmentation to 3,130 million tonne (MT) from around 700 MT at present at the country’s 12 major ports in the next 5-6 years.

The challenges before Gadkari include reviving the ailing road sector and also upgrading 55,000 kms of highways with an expenditure of Rs 5.89 lakh crore, a large portion of which is likely to be funded by the private sector through PPP mode.

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Free Press Journal