Q: Will MSRDC's project development strategy be tweaked post-COVID-19?
After COVID-19 cases were reported in March, we organised interactions with the authorities and the concerned contractors. We ensured that at all camps, there would be standard operating procedures (SOPs) of construction. We deployed doctors, PPE kits, sanitisers in all 20 camps, where 20,000+ workers are housed. However, the good thing about new technology is that it is machine-intensive and not labour-intensive. It is not a big deal that 20,000 workers are deployed on the 701km-long Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Marg. Gone are the days when for 700km, seven lakh people would have been deployed.Because of machine-intensive construction work, manpower has been phased out. As per the SOP, the least amount of interaction or social contact of people is envisaged. Our work has become a safety-driven exercise and it has picked up.
Q: Has the pandemic made an impact on project implementation?
There was a setback in May, as migrant workers were allowed to go back. However, now the situation is improving, as those who left are returning and resuming work. With the development of the Samruddhi Expressway, there will be tremendous opportunities to create employment in the far-flung areas of Maharashtra, in view of the ongoing projects. Currently, there is a concentration of population and jobs in Mumbai, the MMR and Pune. Hereafter, it is expected that manufacturing will spread out. We are focusing on the development of new townships and pushing for new industries to come up there. This will unleash new development potential in agriculture processing, logistics and other sectors.
Project implementation has not taken a backseat because of COVID-19, but we have made it more rigorous. The MMRDA has now transferred to the MSRDC the implementation of the proposed Virar-Alibaug Multimodal Corridor project (Rs 20,000 crore).
The MSRDC has already received approval for a 170-km ring road for Pune (Rs 15,000 crore) and the Mumbai-Sawantwadi Expressway. It has also been asked to undertake a feasibility study for the Versova-Virar sea link. We will be executing all these projects. Investment is dynamic because there is land cost and a metro component.
The investment figures are always dynamic, as there are components like land, metro, growth centre development. Therefore, the MSRDC is arriving at proper costing which is yet to be firmed up. Infrastructure, which is the largest employment generating sector, will spur the growth of economy post-COVID-19.
Q: Do you expect hurdles in the mobilisation of funds post-COVID-19?
We will have to find innovative methods to finance proposed projects. We will have to approach multilateral agencies. So far, the MSRDC has not sourced funding from multilateral agencies. As far as the multi-modal corridor is concerned, the MMRDA was already at an advanced stage of sourcing funds and the MSRDC will take it further from there. For other proposed projects, we are looking at a mix of government support and funds from multilateral agencies.
Q: Are there any plans for listing of the MSRDC?
Right from 1996 since it was established, it has always been considered that the MSRDC will list at some point in time. By doing so, it should get value. Additionally, there has been an approval from the board that in all our projects, the MSRDC may offload up to 49%. This approval has also been given by the state government also, at various stages. We may raise money even by offloading our equity up to 49% at an appropriate time.
Q: Are you planning on taking up projects outside the state?
There is already approval for the same. However, no decision has been taken so far. As of now, the MSRDC is completely equipped and has positioned itself to implement any project that will be assigned to it by the government.