The MMRDA has the maximum number of infrastructure projects in its kitty but now, with the coronavirus outbreak, all these are stalled. How do you plan to catch up with deadlines?
I am foreseeing the extension of project deadlines, as all work has stopped and restarting is sure to take a long time. Factories supplying steel, cement and other construction material are also closed. But we are ready and are currently keeping ourselves busy with other project-related work.
Won't this delay increase project costs?
We should refer to this as 'excess cost in project expenditure'. All nations and governments have realised that the costs are going to rise -- on humanitarian grounds, you must feed your labour force, you have to pay your work team, which is currently sitting idle at home and we have to do that because at this critical juncture, we cannot shirk these responsibilities. Also, as the lockdown gets over, we aware that if the economy has to be revised, we are going to play a major role. Investment in infrastructure projects will bring happiness to those associated with them. For instance, several industries like steel and cement are involved, several engineers are working, as is a huge labour force. Annually, we generate employment to the tune of 60,000 man-days. Therefore, the economy will get a lot of support from organisations like the MMRDA and we are well aware of our role. We are ready to bounce back.
How much more time and excess expenditure will ongoing projects entail?
This is a matter of detail, which we will understand only after the lockdown is over. However, we are reviewing projects and doing our homework. There is a popular saying, which goes: When fishermen cannot venture into the sea during the monsoon, they sit and repair their nets. We are doing the same. We are working from home, preparing and publishing tender documents, answering bidders' queries, holding pre-bid meetings etc.
Tell us about pre-monsoon related works.
Shortly, the desilting of nullahs on the Western and Eastern Express Highways and all other pre-monsoon related work will begin.
The MMRDA has borrowed money from international agencies for various projects. Will funding be affected because of the coronavirus outbreak?
Meetings are underway and correspondence is going on. Since people are well aware of this situation worldwide, I don't think they will change their minds and cancel any line of credit. In fact, I strongly believe this will not happen. There might be a delay in the release of funds but no other problems should arise.
At various project sites, migrant labourers have been provided shelter by the MMRDA. What precautions are being taken in current pandemic situation?
We are taking care of all our workers, it is also our responsibility. Proper sanitisation is being undertaken, to ensure that no one gets infected. Besides ensuring proper healthcare, we are keeping our workforce amply fed.
The MMRDA had planned to launch Metro Lines 7 and 2A by 2020-end.
Once the lockdown is lifted and civil work can be resumed, our target will be to get going in full swing...
Any message for those worried about the future of infrastructure projects?
At this time, all I can say is, stay safe, these are difficult times and everybody should take care. Do not worry about the future of infrastructure projects in Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. We are aware of our responsibilities and everything will be handled with care.