Union Minister for Surface Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari said Friday the “negative mindset” of the bureaucracy was the biggest hurdle in the way of the country’s development, especially infrastructure growth. He said political leaders should show courage to overcome this and demonstrate good results.
At the concluding session of the two-day Loksatta conclave, Badalta Maharashtra, Gadkari expressed his serious disappointment at the functioning of the bureaucracy. In his characteristic style, the BJP leader said he knew well how to surmount such hurdles imposed by bureaucrats and to “bring them on the right track”. Raising money for infrastructure projects in India was not a challenge, considering that the world was willing to fund projects here, he said, adding that it was bureaucratic inertia that was hampering growth.
“While it is true that bureaucrats often display a negative approach, it would be futile to put the entire blame on them. The ability to fast-track decisions should come from political leaders,” he said, referring to issues raised by the bureaucracy relating to roads and highway projects. “How to make it possible is their responsibility,” he said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too has been critical of late of the bureaucracy in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also told a meeting of senior secretaries of his government, soon after taking over in 2014, that there was a need to do away with archaic rules and practices, signalling to them that it was time to change some rules.
Gadkari said there were provisions in government rules that allowed for overruling dissent notes put up by bureaucrats on certain policy issues. However, he added, many ministers were not aware of such rules, or lacked the courage to take such decisions. However, Gadkari said, decisions on policy issues in public interest could be taken in a transparent manner without any delay or hesitation.
“In a span of five years, I will complete road projects of Rs 7 lakh crore across the country. If I fail to keep my promise, anybody would be free to question me directly. Almost Rs 2-lakh-crore road projects would be completed in Maharashtra,” he said.
Outlining project details on road construction, ports and infrastructure, Gadkari said, “Often, mega projects get delayed due to redtape and bureaucratic complacency. If the political leadership displays courage and adequately support the process of decision making, things can be eased. Often investors are subjected to harassment because of project delays. It is at this point the role of political leadership is crucial.”
Recalling his experience, Gadkari said as many as 384 mega projects worth Rs 3.8 lakh crore were on hold when he took charge of the surface transport ministry.
“The projects were struck due to huge arrears and loans, which remained unpaid to banks. But after tackling the problems, almost all the projects have been streamlined. The infrastructure projects led to creation of employment. There is no shortage of funds. But what is important is ability of the political leaders to overcome the problems and effectively implement the projects,” he said.
Speaking at the conclave, Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan listed shortcomings in the smart cities project. Chavan said the project was dotted with multiple discrepancies and fund shortage. “From shortlisting of cities and allocation of funds, there are shortcomings everywhere,” he said, wondering how metros like Mumbai or Kolkata would be able to manage the projects.