“Quality infrastructure propels growth. It connects people, brightens their lives and brings India closer to the world.” - Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Building Infrastructure that befits the aspirations of a modern India is perhaps the most important task in front of any government. However, unlike many other countries that climbed the ladder of growth, India presents a rather unique challenge. On the one hand it has still to solve legacy infrastructure issues of twentieth century and on the other it also aspires to match, or in some cases indeed exceed, the infrastructure capabilities of the most developed nations in the twenty first century. So while there were still more than 18,000 villages that were unelectrified since Independence, India was also simultaneously successfully erecting the world's largest Direct Benefit Transfer regime. How has the government fared on these two, sometimes complimentary, sometimes competing, priorities? Consider the following.
On 1st April 2015, India has set forth on ambitious journey, a mission to provide electricity to 18,452 un-electrified villages in a mere 1,000 days. It became the solemn promise of a Prime Minister from the Red Fort, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took upon himself this challenge in his Independence Day Speech. Rural Electrification is happening at a rapid pace, and is being done in an unbelievably transparent manner. GARV, an online platform gives real time updates of the electrification status. As of 7th June 2016, 8019 villages have already been electrified. The reaction of the villagers, from Assam to Uttar Pradesh to Rajasthan has been uniformly the same - one of joy at being finally connected !
The emergent crisis resulting from the cancellation of 204 coal blocks by Supreme Court in 2014 was turned into an opportunity through e-auctions. 31 coal blocks were auctioned and 43 coal blocks were allotted through this process. Last year, 2/3 of coal based power plants (66 out of 100 coal plants tracked by Central Electricity Authority) had critical coal stocks, i.e. stocks for less than 7 days of production. Recovering from the situation, today not a single power plant in the country is faces a critical coal stock level.
The last two years have seen coal production by Coal India rise to a record 74 Million Tons. This has reduced import cost and led to savings of Rs. 28000 cr. of foreign exchange in 2015-16.
The power grid saw an annual growth of 39% in 2015-16 due to commissioning of transmission projects worth Rs. 30,300 Crore. The highest ever increase in transmission lines was witnessed by 50,215 ckm (circuit kilometers) in 2014-16 which was around 1.5 times higher than 33,855 ckm in 2012-14.
Substantial budget outlay has been provided for sub--‐transmission and distribution infrastructure improvement in urban and rural areas through Integrated Power Development Scheme and DeenDayalUpadhyaya Gram JyotiYojana respectively.
Adopting the motto “India LED the World” the government paved way for the LED Revolution. The world’s largest LED distribution programme was taken up with over 10 crore LED lights being distributed, which was 150% increase from 2013-14. Transparent procurement led to reduction in price by 82%. Energy efficient LED fans and agricultural pumps were launched.
Increased wattage from 7W to 9W at reduced price
In order to fix the weakest link in the power value chain, UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana) was rolled out to solve the present and potential future problems of the sector. UDAY is the most comprehensive power sector reform ever. It works as a permanent solution to DISCOM issues with focus on increased operational and financial efficiency.
Through the largest ever wind power capacity addition of 3,300 MW in 2015-16, India exceeded the target by 38% and became the world’s clean energy capital. Similarly, the biggest ever solar power capacity addition of 3,018.80 MW exceeded the target by a stupendous 116%. Solar projects of 20,904 MW capacity were tendered in 2015-16, out of which 11,209 MW are already awarded and 9,695 MW are in process. Because of these impressive achievements, the International Solar Alliance of 121 tropical countries to develop and promote solar energy will now be headquartered in India. In addition, 32 Solar Parks of 19,400 MW capacity were sanctioned in 20 states to harness solar energy uniformly across the nation. In 2015-16, the number of solar pumps installed was 31,472, higher than total number of pumps installed during last 24 years.
In order to pick up speed, Indian Railways, with cooperation from Japan, will soon be getting it’s own Bullet Train. The National High Speed Corporation has commenced action for high-speed railway construction between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. At present, India’s fastest train is ‘GATIMAN’ Express, which reaches speeds of 160 Kmph. ‘Talgo’ trains capable of running at 200 Kmph on existing infrastructure will arrive soon for trials.
Considering consumer comfort, the government focused on significantly improving coach designs and catering. Better food was served, with more choices on the menu. Social media, like Facebook and Twitter were used to give voice to the customer, so that they can share their suggestions and concerns in real time.
An offshoot of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat has focused on maintaining cleanliness on railway tracks, in trains and on railway stations. The objective was to assure zero discharge on the tracks and cleanliness on stations and trains.
Keeping in mind the importance of Rail network across the country, a record capital investment of Rs.500,000 Crore has been committed for Railway Infrastructure. The plan includes connecting all north eastern capital cities by broad gauge by 2020 and zero unmanned level crossings on broad gauge in next 3 years. A Special Railway Safety Fund of Rs.100,000 Crores has been set up.
To realize the grand vision of a connected India, record construction of 6029 Kms of highways was carried out in 2015-16. As per the plan, 65,000 eligible habitations are to be connected by constructing 2.23 lakh Km of roads by 2019. 72,835 Kms of rural roads were constructed in 2014-16. There are 3 Major Highway Programmes currently underway – National Highways Development Programme – 55,229 Kms, Special programme for Eastern Region – 10,141 Kms and Left Wing Extremism affected areas – 5477 Kms.
A few new port projects are in the pipeline – Sagar port, Dugarajapatnam port, Enayam Port (Colachel), Vadhavan Port (Dahanu). Also, in order to promote port-led development in the country, the Sagarmala Program was conceptualized, with an estimated infrastructure investment of Rs. 4 lakh Crore for over 150 identified projects.
106 newly declared National Waterways will be developed in the years to come. The Jal Marg Vikas Project between Allahabad and Haldia will enable commericial navigation of at least 1,500 ton vessels, and will cover a distance of 1620 Kms.Bridging the digital divide
Considering the importance of rural internet connectivity, the government has planned to connect all 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats (over 600 million rural citizens) in the country with 100 mbps broadband.
In many ways this is just the beginning. However, the ultimate goal of developing and transforming India is well and truly on its way.