The NDA government expects that a unified approach to the transport sector will provide synergies that have not happened so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to bring surface transport with shipping to make decision-making in the sector happen quicker. It restores the position prevailing in the previous NDA government where the two ministries under one minister provided a sterling pace of growth. The UPA government, in its second term, had bifurcated the two.
“All transport ministries should be brought under one ministry, as this would ensure that the policy decisions are taken to benefit all the segments of transport. The railways is now losing market share in goods carriage, while roads is gaining. A unified ministry would ensure that any policy decision on this benefits both the segments of transport,” said former road secretary Brahm Dutt.
Dutt added that a unified ministry would ensure the roll-out of multimodal transport in the country. He said he is in favour of even bringing railways into the same omnibus ministry. “Between roads and railways ministries, a unified ministry would mean easy clearance of a large number of railway bridges on highways, which are stuck due to one approval or the other.
There are various other things,” said Dutt. The problem in integrating roads and shipping ministries could come more at the top level than at the operational levels. Regulators including NHAI and TAMP are likely to see the move as an encroachment into their sectors. This is where the role of the minister’s handling of the differences would come in critical and make Nitin Gadkari’s job quite sensitive.
For instance on the simple matter of approval for pending railway bridges over roads had flared up in 2012, when the then roads minister CP Joshi was made the railways minister for a brief period.
Joshi found on his first day in the job that 85 road projects (including bridges over rail lines) were stuck across the country pending clearances and managed to clear 46 of them.