By L.K.Advani, ET 30/4/2009
The Bharatiya Janata Party is seeking a strong and decisive mandate in the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha on a three-pronged promise: good governance, development and security. Our manifesto articulates this commitment with a comprehensive set of assurances concerning every important challenge before the nation and directed at every section of society — from kisans to jawans, from the cooperative sector to the corporate sector, and from students to senior citizens. While releasing the manifesto, I had stated, “The BJP’s ideology can be encapsulated in two words: nation first. We believe in justice for all and discrimination against none.”
The BJP’s manifesto has been widely appreciated. But breaking from tradition, we have also released two additional documents: the BJP’s IT Vision and Infrastructure Vision. These two documents supplement the manifesto by amplifying our vision for tomorrow’s India and how its realisation hinges critically on a future-focused development of India’s physical and social infrastructure, with information technology serving as the revolutionary enabler.
My own realisation about the critical importance of good governance and development was greatly strengthened in 1997, when I undertook the longest continuous nation-wide journey in my life in the form of the 59-day Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra. Its purpose was to celebrate the golden jubilee of India’s independence by visiting the places immortalised by the martyrs and heroes of our glorious freedom struggle. The common refrain in all my speeches was this: “India won swaraj in 1947, thanks to the struggles and sacrifices of crores of patriots. But, even after 50 years, we have not yet succeeded in transforming swaraj (self governance) into su-raj (good governance). By good governance I mean adherence to suraksha (security), samruddhi (prosperity) and shuchita (probity in public life).”
There is no better way of understanding and experiencing India than road travel. It was agonising for me to see, in large tracts of our country, the lack of the most basic necessities of economic growth and social progress.
However, every once in a while, I also saw symbols of development that radiated hope. For example, after travelling on excruciatingly bad roads for several weeks, my yatra suddenly encountered a beautifully laid highway, a 200-kilometre-long stretch from Sambhalpur to Rourkela in Orissa. Built and maintained by Larsen & Tourbo (I was struck by its corporate slogan “We make things that make India proud”), this was one of the first experiments of PPP in road construction in India.
Referring to this in my speeches, I had said: “Why shouldn’t we build world-class highways in our country? Why is the condition of infrastructure in most parts of India so appalling? Why do common people have to pay bribes even to get a mundane telephone connection or a gas connection? I assure you that we will change this state of affairs when the BJP comes to power at the Centre.”
When the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the reins of governance in 1998, we indeed started to build a world-class highway infrastructure, launched the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana for rural connectivity, ushered in a telecom revolution, boosted the growth of IT and banished shortages in the supply of LPG connections.
I am mentioning this just to underscore our resolve, should the people give us the mandate to form the next government, to redouble our efforts towards removal of the huge infrastructure deficit that India is currently suffering from. This deficit is mainly due to the prolonged neglect and misrule by successive governments of the Congress party, which has governed India for the longest period since Independence. The past five years of the UPA rule, in particular, have been highly disappointing. Partha Mukhopadhyay, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, has vividly described the UPA government’s failure on the infrastructure front: “It may not be accurate to accuse this government of dropping the ball on infrastructure, for it never picked it up. The next government…will have its work cut out for redressing these deficiencies.”
The BJP’s infrastructure vision document affirms that our country deserves infrastructure, both physical and social, that is second to none in the world and commensurate in quality and quantity with our goal of making the 21st century India’s century. Expanding and modernising India’s infrastructure on a war footing is our solemn commitment. Towards this end, we shall adopt 100 Projects of National Importance (PNIs) from different sectors and ensure their time-bound implementation. Here is an illustrative list of PNIs.
Water: (i) River-linking project on all feasible links; (ii) Completion of major irrigation and drinking water projects; (iii) Massive expansion of micro-irrigation systems to promote the goal of ‘More crop per drop’.
Energy & power: (i) To provide affordable electricity, 24×7, to every home, every farm, every factory, addition of 120,000 MW of power generation in five years; (ii) At least 20% from non-conventional sources such as wind, solar and biomass-based projects; (iii) A national mission for energy conservation and adoption of green technologies to make India a global leader in green energy.
Roads: (i) Completion of all components of the national highway development project, including the district highways; (ii) Completion of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana; (iii) National mission for road safety to reduce by half fatalities (130,000 per year) in road accidents.
Railways: (i) Completion of all long-pending rail projects; (ii) Dedicated freight corridors connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, and these to other mineral and industrial hubs; (iii) Modernisation of 100 important railway stations; (iv) Urban metro rail systems in the 25 largest cities of India.
Ports & shipping: (i) ‘Sagar mala’ for a massive expansion and modernisation of India’s port and shipping infrastructure; (ii) Development of inland waterways in at least five important stretches. (iii) Making India a major hub for shipbuilding.
Civil aviation: (i) Modernisation of airport infrastructure in every state capital and important commercial centre; (ii) Improve linkages from city centres to airports with the help of expressways, MRT and buses; (iii) Making India a hub of aircraft production, repair and overhaul.
Telecommunications & IT: (i) Unlimited broadband Internet connectivity to every village at cable TV prices; (ii) Increase mobile phone subscribers from the present 40 crore to 100 crore, and achieve parity between mobile and Internet users; (iii) E-Bhasha, a national mission for promotion of IT in Indian languages; (iv) Develop a globally competitive IT hardware industry in India to reduce dependence on imports. (v) Multi-purpose national ID card project to be completed in three years.
Urban infrastructure: Recast and vastly expand the Jawaharlal Nehru National Renewal Mission into four missions: (i) Jawaharlal Nehru Metro Renewal Mission (for 40 cities with a population of more than 10 lakh); (ii) Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel District Centre Renewal Mission (for 600-plus district towns); (iii) Netaji Bose Tehsil Town Renewal Mission (for 4,000-plus taluka towns); and (iv) Pavitra Bharat Teerthasthan Renewal Mission for the pilgrimage centres of all faiths. In addition, at least 15 Indian cities will be developed as global cities in five years.
Rural & agri-infrastructure: (i) Roll out the PURA (provision of urban amenities in rural areas) scheme nationally; (ii) Provision of clean drinking water and total rural sanitation; (iii) Modernisation of agricultural markets (mandis), including legislative reform of their functioning to reduce intermediaries; (iv) Massive investment in agro-support infrastructure like grain banks, cold storage houses and agro-processing units within rural clusters.
The BJP recognises that 80% of infrastructure development in India still requires public investment. This underscores the paramount role of government in planning, financing and time-bound execution of projects. I am proud of India’s public sector, which has amassed tremendous experience in infrastructure project implementation over the decades, is our national pride. We will strengthen the public sector, and enable it to make its fullest contribution to infrastructure expansion in India. At the same time, we will also fully encourage participation by India’s private sector, which has grown enormously both in size and project implementation capability. We will fully leverage the private sector’s resources and capabilities by aggressively expanding the scope of public-private partnerships.
Some people ask me: “Where is the money to accomplish all this?” I believe that the main constraint in infrastructure development in India is not finance but poor governance. If there is political will, adequate resources can indeed be mobilised. What is worrying is that faulty policy and legal framework, corruption, red tape, political interference, lack of intra-governmental coordination, judicial delays, and lack of autonomy and accountability at the execution level have paralysed project delivery. Hence, we have identified very specific good governance measures to remove these deficiencies. One such measure will be to set up a high-powered national infrastructure facilitation and monitoring agency (NIFMA), along the lines of FIPB in the ’90s, with a clear mandate to accelerate the implementation of PNIs. The NIFMA will report to the prime minister.
I have always believed that infrastructure development, like any other nationally important initiative, needs result-oriented and inspirational leadership. India has huge managerial talent. Unfortunately, our managers rarely get the autonomy and requisite powers, coupled with clear accountability norms, to show their true mettle. Whenever a right manager for the right project has been given the right powers to execute, we have seen amazing results. E Sreedharan of the Delhi Metro is a notable example, but there are many more. Hence, we shall create an environment of top-level managerial empowerment for the emergence of 100 Sreedharans who can “make things happen”.
I am confident that the next government will be a BJP-led NDA government with the participation of several new allies. Get ready for an infrastructure revolution in India.