Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Explained: FASTagsGovt. Schemes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RFID technology

Mains level : FASTags



From December 1, lanes on NH toll plazas across India will accept toll only through FASTag. One hybrid lane will continue to accept cash in addition to being tag-enabled.

What is ‘FASTag’?

  • FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
  • The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods.
  • As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number.

How does it work?

  • The device employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for payments directly from the prepaid or savings account linked to it.
  • It is affixed on the windscreen, so the vehicle can drive through plazas without stopping.
  • RFID technology is similar to that used in transport access-control systems, like Metro smart card.
  • If the tag is linked to a prepaid account like a wallet, or a debit/credit card, then owners need to recharge/top up the tag.
  • If it is linked to a savings account, rthen money will get deducted automatically after the balance goes below a pre-defined threshold.
  • Once a vehicle crosses the toll, the owner will get an SMS alert on the deduction. In that it is like a prepaid e-wallet.

How can one buy it?

  • E-commerce portals like Amazon and PayTM sell these tags issued by various banks.
  • Places, where these counters are set up, include Road Transport Authority offices, transport hubs, bank branches, and selected petrol pumps.
  • A FASTag bought from NHAI comes with a one-time fee of Rs 100 besides a refundable security deposit of Rs 150.
  • Apart from the currently free tags at NHAI booths, there is also a cashback of 2.5 per cent on FASTag transactions as an offer.
  • In the tag taken from NHAI, the Rs 150 security deposit, which the government is bearing as a promotion, comes back to the user as wallet value if the FASTag is linked to the NHAI e-wallet in the “My FASTag app” mobile app.
  • So in this particular scheme, the user gets Rs 150 back without even paying it.

Penalties

  • A FASTag is valid for five years, and can be recharged as and when required.
  • Vehicles entering FASTag lanes without FASTag will be charged twice the toll amount.

Will those living close to toll roads not end up paying more frequently?

  • As per a government notification, users living within 10 km of a toll plaza can avail a concession on toll to be paid via FASTag.
  • They need to submit proof of residence and nearest point-of-sale location to validate.
  • Once the address is verified, the concession is ensured via FASTag affixed on the vehicle.

Is it working smoothly?

  • The tags sold by banks are not “bank-neutral”.
  • A FASTag bought from one bank can be recharged through that particular bank only and not through other banks.
  • However, tags sold/distributed by NHAI are bank-neutral as one can use any bank account to recharge/top up the value in the tag.

What about state highways?

  • Under a new “One Nation One FASTag” scheme, the NHAI is trying to get states on board so that one tag can be used seamlessly across highways, irrespective of whether it is the state or the Centre that owns/manages it.
  • Recently as part of a pilot, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana signed MoUs with the Centre to accept FASTags in state highways also.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Imphal to Mandalay flight servicePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the flight

Mains level : Infrastructure facilities in NE India


Myanmar’s private airlines Air KBZ kicked off a chartered flight service from Manipur’s state capital Imphal to Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay.

About the flight service

  • The service is a chartered flight service.
  • Once it is regularised, then pricing and ticketing will become standardised.
  • Imphal will become an important part of the international travel route.

What is the importance of this flight service?

  • Mandalay is an important economic centre of Myanmar and the flight service is said to be benefiting both traders and tourists.
  • The service is expected to transform the transportation network through Northeast India and boost the regional economy.

Other sources of connectivity to SE

  • This year, Assam rolled out flight services from Guwahati to Bangkok and Dhaka.
  • Guwahati is also connected to Paro in Bhutan.
  • Government plans to connect Guwahati to capitals of other ASEAN countries soon by air.
  • Manipur is already connected to Myanmar by road, as is Bangladesh to Meghalaya and Tripura.
  • India’s access to Bangladesh’s Chittagong port via Tripura is in the pipeline, so is the completion of the Agartala-Akhaura international railway project that will connect Bangladesh railway track with North-East Frontier Railways.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Rohtang TunnelPrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rohang Tunnel

Mains level : Significance of the tunnel



The Rohtang Tunnel will become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet, after its inauguration in Sept 2020.

Rohtang Tunnel

  • Rohtang Tunnel is a highway tunnel being built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway.
  • At 8.8 km length, the tunnel will be one of the longest road tunnels in India and is expected to reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by about 46 km.
  • For now, the tunnel provides a temporary winter link to the outside world not only to residents of Lahaul and Spiti but also to those living in Zanskar Valley of Ladakh.
  • While Rohtang Pass is at a height of 13,050 feet, the pass on the road to Leh is Baralacha La at 16,040 feet.
  • An alternate road link to Ladakh has also been developed by BRO on the Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis, but here again a 4.15-km long tunnel at Sinka La Pass (16,703 feet) would be required for all-weather access.

Why delay?

  • It would have been completed at least four years earlier, but for a massive torrent of water encountered inside the tunnel.
  • The Seri Nullah, which flows on top of the tunnel, almost threatened to derail the project and it took several years to devise ways to tackle the massive flow of water that often went up to 140 litres per second.

Significance

  • The project also has significant strategic implications for the military as it will allow access beyond Rohtang Pass even in peak winters.
  • All-winter connectivity to Ladakh, however, is still some time away as more tunnels will have to be built to tackle the high passes which fall beyond Rohtang.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[pib] First ever movement of container cargo on Brahmaputra (NW -2)PIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NW-2

Mains level : Infrastructure facilities in NE India



  • The first cargo consignment will sail on National Waterway-2 from Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) to Pandu in Guwahati.

NW-2

  • National Waterway 2 (NW-2) is a section of the Brahmaputra River having a length of 891 km between the Bangladesh border near Dhubri and Sadiya in Assam.
  • It was declared as NW No. 2 on 1 September 1988.
  • It has only one fixed terminals namely the Pandu Port while rest are floating which include Dhubri Port, Jogighopa, Tezpur, Silghat, Dibrugarh, Jamuguri, Bogibil, Saikhowa and Sadiya

Some facts

  • NW-1 has witnessed healthy growth with the augmentation of navigation capacity of Ganga under Jal Marg Vikas Project.
  • The traffic on NW-1 has grown from 5.48 million tonnes in 2017-18 to 6.79 million tonnes in 2018-19.
  • Out of the total traffic of 6.79 million tonnes on NW-1, approximately 3.15 million tonnes is the EXIM trade between India and Bangladesh using the Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes.

What is the Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route?

  • The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) between India and Bangladesh allows mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways for movement of goods vessels of both countries.
  • The IBP route extends from Kolkata (India) on NW-1 to Silghat (Assam) on NW-2 (River Brahmaputra) and Karimganj (Assam) on NW-16 (River Barak).
  • In addition to the above, India and Bangladesh have taken major steps to enhance utilization of waterways in the recent past.
  • An SOP to facilitate the movement of goods to and from India through Chittagong and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh has been signed by the two countries on 5th October 2019.
  • The proximity of these two ports will reduce logistics cost and improve trade competitiveness of North East states.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Chenani Nashari Tunnel renamed after Dr Syama Prasad MookerjeePrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chenani Nashari Tunnel

Mains level : Not Much



  • Union Ministry for Road Transport & Highways announced renaming of Chenani Nashri Tunnel on NH 44 in Jammu & Kashmir as Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Tunnel.

Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Tunnel

  • This 9 km tunnel is the longest such state of art tunnel in the country, connecting Udhampur to Ramban in Jammu.
  • The key features of the tunnel are — it is a single-tube bi-directional tunnel, with a 9.35-metre carriageway, and a vertical clearance of 5 metres.
  • It cuts down 31 km of travel distance and reduces the travel time between the two points by about two hours, in addition to substantial saving in fuel cost.
  • There is also a parallel escape tunnel, with ‘Cross Passages’ connecting to the main tunnel at intervals of 300 metres.
  • It also has smart features such as an integrated traffic control system; surveillance, ventilation and broadcast systems; fire fighting system; and SOS call-boxes at every 150 metres.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

One Nation One FASTag SchemeGovt. Schemes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RFID technology

Mains level : One Nation One FASTag Scheme



  • Minister of Road Transport and Highways inaugurated the scheme.

One Nation One FASTag scheme

  • The ‘One Nation One FASTag’ scheme will be implemented from December 1.
  • The plan aims to integrate the collection of toll digitally and ensure seamless mobility of vehicles across India.
  • It can be availed upon activation by new cars having Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on national and state highways throughout the country.

Why such scheme?

  • At present, 60 lakh vehicles in India have FASTags.
  • According to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), these devices will make passing through tolls considerably smoother since drivers will no longer have to carry cash or stop to make a transaction.

What is ‘FASTag’?

  • FASTags are stickers that are affixed to the windscreen of vehicles and use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
  • The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods.
  • As a car crosses a toll plaza, the amount is automatically deducted, and a notification is sent to the registered mobile phone number.
  • Sensors are placed on toll barriers, and the barriers open for vehicles having valid FASTags.
  • A FASTag is valid for five years and needs to be recharged only as per requirement.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[op-ed snap] Taken for a ride: on India’s gender-blind transport systemop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Need for gender sensitive public transport


CONTEXT

A 2010 report by New-Delhi based NGO Jagori revealed that 51% of women in the capital faced harassment inside public transport, and another 42% while waiting for public transport.

Ola’s survey ahead of International Women’s Day 2019, highlighted how only 9% of the surveyed women commuters in the country felt safe in public transport, but still used it due to the lack of other options. 

HOW TO MAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SAFE FOR ALL

  • Rope in traffic police at large bus depots, MRTC railway stations
  • Provide functional and responsive helplines
  • Ensure elevators and escalators are functional
  • Better footpaths and clean subways
  • Create safe and usable cycling tracks
  • Set up the gender advisory committee
  • Most importantly, educate and sensitize men

Problems

  1. As per a 2017 report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, women may turn down better employment opportunities further away from home in favor of lower-paid local jobs when the public transport system is unreliable or unaffordable
  2. This holds true especially for those belonging to lower-income groups, thus impacting their access to better jobs, education and basic necessities
  3. The report also states that over 84% of trips by women are by the public, intermediate public and non-motorised modes of transport
  4. Efforts to improve our crumbling public transport systems — used by a majority of the population — haven’t been addressed.

Motor Vehicles Bill 2019

  1. The bill provides some relief to passengers as far as app-based taxi-hailing services go
  2. It gives power to the Centre to regulate these services and set ground rules on safety and surge pricing, and get them to invest in customer care teams 
  3. It points out issues of road safety, heftier fines for errant drivers, vehicle recall norms
  4. There’s no mention of better roads or infrastructure development

Unless we have gender-responsive plans for urban transport in place, our cities will be far from inclusive.

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Warehousing GridGovt. Schemes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Warehousing Grid

Mains level : Need for National Warehousing Grid


  • The government is likely to introduce warehousing schemes at village and National level to build an efficient storage infrastructure.
  • A National Warehousing Grid along the National Highways may also be introduced in the Budget.

National Warehousing Grid

  • The Centre’s scheme aims at broad integration of the warehousing capacities in India.
  • Approximately 90% of the warehousing space is controlled by unorganised players, with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  • An action plan has already been approved by the Centre on sectoral basis for the construction of steel silos with a capacity of 100 lakh metric tonnes in PPP mode for modernizing storage infrastructure and improving shelf life of stored food grains.

Why need such scheme?

  • Practically, much of the country’s warehousing capacity outside of the agri sector is in the unorganised sector, with small warehouses of less than 10,000 sq ft area.
  • Currently, of the total warehousing space of about 180 million sq ft in the country, the industrial segment accounts for about 86% and the agricultural sector the rest 14%, according to NITI statistics.
  • Two-thirds of the warehousing capacity in the food storage segment is owned by the public sector.
  • Apart from conventional storing services, India’s warehousing capacity is increasingly being used to offer value-added services such as the consolidation and breaking up of cargo, packaging, labelling, bar coding and reverse logistics.

Plugging deficiencies

  • The project is aimed at plugging deficiencies given that India’s current cold storage capacity at 25 MT is barely sufficient for 10% of the fruits and vegetables produced in the country.
  • The lack of adequate storage infrastructure is an important reason for the high cost of food products and wastage.
  • Nearly 60% of the modern warehousing capacity in India is concentrated in top six cities, namely Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Pune, with Hyderabad and Kolkata being the other major markets, according to Care Ratings.
  • This trend is driven by the concentration of industrial activity and presence of sizeable urban population around these clusters.

Beneficiaries

  • The prime beneficiaries of the new wave of growth in warehousing include peripheral locations of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
  • Much of the fresh investments would go into creating storage facilities for retail and consumer goods.

Forthcoming challenges

  • The primary challenge that India’s warehousing market currently faces is acquisition of a feasible land parcel, given that land cost constitutes the largest component of a warehousing project.
  • While rental values that a warehouse owner can charge are primarily driven by demand and supply factors, land prices are inherently dependent on multiple factors like development control regulations, infrastructure development and the best alternative usage of land.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Freight Index (NFI)Prelims OnlyPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Freight Index (NFI)

Mains level : Utility of NFI


  • In its bid to bring transparency in the road-freight marketplace, Gurgaon-based logistics start-up Rivigo has launched National Freight Index (NFI).

National Freight Index (NFI)

  • The NFI aims to provide live freight rates for different lanes and vehicles across the country.
  • It gives live spot rates on over 7 million lane and vehicle type combinations in the country.
  • It will bring a pricing transparency, in a system where the demand traditionally flows from transporters, brokers, fleet owners and then to drivers.
  • The actual freight rates are in Indian rupee per ton-km and in terms of relative movement with respect to a base month, and would be updated in real time.
  • It will also give historical spot price movements of the road freight industry.

How it’s computed?

  • Rivigo has adopted machine-learning and economics powered pricing algorithms.
  • The rates on the exchange and index are computed using millions of data points from historical transactions, current market dynamics, micro market insights and other factors.

Utility of NFI

  • The Indian road freight market size is estimated at $150 billion-$160 billion, of which $130 billion-$140 billion is full-truck load (FTL) market, but it has been facing a growing challenge of shortage of truck drivers.
  • There are high inefficiencies in the existing freight market, which leads to a great loss of value.
  • Nobody wants to be a truck driver anymore and the country could face a 50% shortage of truck drivers by 2023.
  • Logistics account for nearly 14% of India’s GDP and 70% of it comes from road transportation.
  • But, there is no pricing transparency and working conditions of drivers is deplorable.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Traffic Index 2018IOCRPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the index

Mains level : Vehicular Traffic in India



  • A recent study has ranked Mumbai as the most traffic-congested city in the world for the second straight year, and Delhi at fourth place.

Traffic Index 2018

  • The findings published are part of the Traffic Index 2018 published by TomTom, an Amsterdam-based company.
  • It offers traffic solutions, uses location technology to collect traffic information, and has been publishing city rankings for eight years.
  • The index factors for peak hours, accidents, inclement weather, construction work and all other factors likely to cause disruptions.
  • The latest index ranks 403 cities across 56 countries, including 13 new cities.

Defining Congestion

  • For this study, congestion has been defined in terms of the additional time taken to reach a destination as opposed to when the road would have been clear of traffic.
  • Mumbai’s 2018 congestion level of of 65%, therefore, means that the extra travel time is 65% more than an average trip would take during uncongested conditions.
  • For Delhi, by the same yardstick, the extra travel time is 58% more.

Around the world

  • Nearly 75% of the cities part of the 2018 index had increased or stable congestion levels between 2017 and 2018, with only 90 cities showing measurable decreases, states the report.
  • Congestion in Jakarta, for example, decreased by 8 percentage points while that in Lima rose by the same number of points.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[op-ed snap] Highway hurdle: the Chennai-Salem corridorop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bharatmala

Mains level : Projects are hurriedly being implemented without much concern for environment.


CONTEXT

The Madras High Court verdict quashing land acquisition proceedings for the proposed Chennai-Salem greenfield expressway is an indictment of the arbitrary decision-making process behind the project.

Impact of Court’s Verdict

  • The court has referred to how “peaceful protests were stifled, unwritten gag orders were promulgated, [and] police force was used to handle the peaceful protesters who were making a request to spare them and their lands”.
  • It was only after the court intervened that “these high-handed actions subsided”.
  • It invalidated the notification for intent to acquire land for the project on the ground that the National Highways Authority of India cannot acquire land without complying with the requirement of preparing an environment impact assessment report
  • Need For Environment Impact Assessment and clearance – The decision is important for affirming the principle that environmental clearance ought to be obtained before any project is allowed to advance to a stage where measures become irreversible.
  • It underscores that sufficient data on the possible harm to the environment is needed before resources are committed to a project.
  • In this case, not only would land titles be transferred to the state; heavy compensation amounts would also have been paid by the time the environmental impact is known.

Haste in implementing infra projects

  • The project was pushed by the Centre and the State even though it was set to pass through wetlands, fertile farmlands, reserve forests and waterbodies.
  • Farmers who stood to lose their land and environmentalists had questioned the claim that by reducing the transit time, there would be saving of fuel, thereby cutting the carbon footprint.
  • What has been exposed in the verdict is that the eight-lane corridor was never really cleared as a project under the Centre’s Bharatmala Pariyojana.
  • No deliberation on the project – It did not figure in the list of road projects approved under Bharatmala-I. The NHAI did not explain in its counter-affidavit how the Chennai-Madurai highway, an approved project, was dropped and the Chennai-Salem project included in its place.
  • The court examined the record and found that there was nothing to show that it was approved by either the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs or the Public-Private Partnership Appraisal Committee; the Chennai-Tiruchi-Madurai corridor had much higher vehicular traffic to justify its inclusion in Bharatmala.
  • The court’s conclusion that labelling its replacement by the Salem project as a ‘policy decision’ was not a sufficient explanation is unexceptionable.

Conclusion

Having failed to convince the court that the procedures it followed were above board, the least that the Centre can now do is to make a comprehensive study of its impact on the environment and on farming and rural livelihoods before moving ahead.

 

 

 

Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)Prelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NIIF

Mains level : Government initiatives for reviving infrastructure sector and providing required capital to the sector.


 News

  • Roadis, a private investor and operator of transport infrastructure worldwide and the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) have jointly set up a platform to invest in road projects in India.

Platform for Road projects in India

  • The platform would invest up to $2 billion of equity targeting toll-operate-transfer models, acquisitions of existing road concessions and investment opportunities in the road sector.
  • With 710 km of highways under ownership and management, Roadis is one of the largest European highway concession managers in India.
  • Roadis is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.

About NIIF

  1. National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) is a fund created by the Government of India for enhancing infrastructure financing in the country.
  2. This is different from the National Investment Fund.
  3. Objective: to maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects.
  4. NIIF was proposed to be set up as a Trust, to raise debt to invest in the equity of infrastructure finance companies such as Indian Rail Finance Corporation (IRFC) and National Housing Bank (NHB).
  5. NIIF is envisaged as a fund of funds with the ability to make direct investments as required. As a fund of fund it may invest in other SEBI registered funds.
  6. The functions of NIIF are as follows:
  • Fund raising through suitable instruments including off-shore credit enhanced bonds, and attracting anchor investors to participate as partners in NIIF;
  • Servicing of the investors of NIIF.
  • Considering and approving candidate companies/institutions/ projects (including state entities) for investments and periodic monitoring of investments.
  • Investing in the corpus created by Asset Management Companies (AMCs) for investing in private equity.
  • Preparing a shelf of infrastructure projects and providing advisory service
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

‘1,200 km/hour’: World’s first Hyperloop passenger capsule unveiledPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hyperloop Technology

Mains level: Utility of hyperloop technology in Transportation


News

World’s First Hyperloop Capsule

  1. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. unveiled its first full-scale passenger capsule, offering the world a peek at the future of travel.
  2. The capsule, 105 feet (32 meters) long and weighing 5 tons, was shown in Spain.
  3. Named as the Quintero One, the product is made almost entirely out of composite material.

Hyperloop Technology

  1. Hyperloop is a technology that gained popularity after billionaire Elon Musk touted it in 2013, prompting several companies to join the race to build a high-speed transportation system.
  2. It envisages moving passengers in capsules at speeds of more than 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) per hour through low-pressure tubes, in order to reduce friction.
  3. The technology will be able to propel trains faster than existing methods such as the Maglev, which uses a levitation technology to lift the train cars above a track to eliminate surface drag.

Hyperloop in India

  1. Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One held discussions in India, aiming to offer passengers in the futuristic technology fares that are cheaper than local airlines.
  2. Branson has signed a preliminary agreement in Mumbai for a broad hyperloop framework and mooted a Mumbai-Pune system that would shrink travel time to 25 minutes and save about three hours.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Centre increases CVs’ load carrying capacityPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FASTags

Mains level: Reducing logistics cost in Road Transport


News

Trucks can ferry 20-25% more weight

  1. The Transport Ministry has raised safe limits for axle weight for transport vehicles by 20-25%.
  2. The revised axle limits will be applicable to new vehicles.
  3. The move will help reduce logistics costs by 2% and attempts to bring norms at par with international standards.
  4. The Ministry has also proposed to dispense with fitness certificate for new vehicles and make it mandatory to have vehicle tracking system and FASTags for electronic toll collection for all commercial vehicles in its draft amendment to the Commercial Motor Vehicles Act.
  5. The amendments also proposed that a driving license and pollution certificates can be carried in physical or digital form.

Back2Basics

FASTags

  1. FASTag devices employ Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to make toll payments from the prepaid account directly linked with it.
  2. The windscreens of the vehicles are fitted with it.
  3. It enables the four-wheelers to drive through the toll plazas without having to wait for cash transactions at the toll.
  4. A separate lane will be dedicated for such FASTag users.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[op-ed snap] Bharatmala will raise debt issues for someop-ed snap


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Bharatmala Project

Mains level: The risk of default by BOT operators due to conflicts of the scheme with existing Toll Road Projects and need of a mechanism to avoid such conflicts


Context

The poor condition of roads

  1. Indian roads are usually characterized by poor infrastructure and congestion
  2. This affects travel time and road safety which is a big hindrance to economic development and leads to inefficiency in the transportation of goods and services across the country

Bharatmala program and diversion of traffic

  1. The Bharatmala programme may result in traffic diversion from the existing road network to new roads,
    thereby affecting the toll collection and, consequently, the debt servicing ability of some of the BOT and
    OMT projects
  2. Out of the proposed 44 Economic Corridors in Bharatmala, about 21 would partially or fully affect the existing alignments
  3. This has raised the risk of default on 25 national highway toll projects which involve Rs 19,435 crore of
    debt
  4. The risk of such loan defaults will add to banks’ and financial lenders’ stressed assets and non-performing assets

What can BOT operators do?

  1. The stretches under ECs of the Bharatmala Pariyojana are either longer by more than 20%, or traverse a
    new route completely
  2. Hence, they do not fit into the description of the additional tollways, as defined in Article 30 of the
    concession agreement
  3. Thus, there would be no compensation payable for traffic loss on account of the
    Bharatmala programme
  4. In such cases, the concessionaire (contractor) may opt for termination of the concession agreement, in
    which case the termination payment is payable by the Authority (under Authority Event of Default)
  5. The termination payment is equivalent to 90% of the debt due

Kelkar Committee Recommendations

  1. To ensure that the existing BOT projects that are at risk of default do not turn bad for the financial
    institutions, swift and adequate measures are needed
  2. The Kelkar committee had observed that since infrastructure projects span over 20-30 years, a private developer may lose bargaining power owing to abrupt changes in the economic or policy environment
  3. It has thus recommended that the private sector must be protected against such loss. This could be ensured by allowing renegotiation of the terms of the concession agreement
  4. Financial institutions are already reluctant to finance the infrastructure sector, given the rise in non-performing assets (NPAs)

Way Forward

  1. The need of the hour is to realign the terms and conditions of the model concession agreement to ensure that banks do not end up accumulating NPAs
  2. Alternatively, the NHAI can compensate the affected BOT operators and account for it in the total outlay of the Bharatmala programme
  3. Having an appropriate remedial mechanism for BOT operators will help retain interest for investments in new projects; for the lenders, it will help curtail the number of stressed assets from the risk of default

Back2Basics

Bharat Mala Pariyojana

  1. The government has embarked upon a massive overhaul of the country’s road network through Bharatmala Pariyojana
  2. It is an umbrella highway development programme involving 34,800 km of road network at an
    investment of Rs5.35 trillion, to be completed by 2022
  3. The government has assigned NHAI, National Highway and Industrial Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and state public work departments for the highway projects
  4. The programme focuses on optimizing the efficiency of road traffic movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through shorter routes
  5. The end goal is to create economic corridors (ECs) along the path—new industries, more employment and new markets—thereby bringing socio-economic change and upliftment of the underdeveloped regions of the country
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

[op-ed snap] Hitting the highway construction targetop-ed snap


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EPC, HAM, etc.

Mains level: The newscard suggests some effective solutions to increase long-term investment in the highway construction projects.


News

Government focus on the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and hybrid annuity model (HAM)

  1. From last few years, a substantial number of national highway projects have been awarded through the EPC and HAM routes rather than the build, operate, transfer (BOT) mode that was dominant earlier
    Fiscal stress
  2. Given that about Rs5 trillion of funding is required over the next five years to build highways under the ambitious Bharatmala project,
  3. there could be incipient fiscal stress if the pace of project awards through these modes continues
    What should be done?
  4. It would be wise to facilitate more private sector funding of greenfield BOT projects

How to increase long term investment in national highway projects?

  1. In order to improve participation by long-term investors and achieve the highway construction target of 45km per day,
  2. it is critical to revisit the issues deterring investors/private developers within the overall framework of the concession agreements
    (issues are given below)

First: Easier land acquisition

  1. The recent increase in compensation rates to farmers for their land and digitization of land records are expected to increase the project implementation rate
  2. Also, all land that could prevent the construction of any critical element for toll projects should be granted upfront
  3. This condition should not be waived at all

Second: Arbitration

  1. In 2016, the government released new guidelines for arbitration
  2. The government said it would release 75% of the arbitral claim amounts against margin-free bank guarantees in situations where arbitral awards have been given but contested by the relevant authorities
  3. However, this scheme has benefited only a few because most developers were unable to provide bank guarantees
  4. Banks are wary of offering margin-free guarantees because many developers have weak financials

Third: Renegotiation of contracts

  1. Although the Union budget for fiscal 2017 announced that guidelines for the renegotiation of PPP concession agreements would be released, there’s no sign of that yet
  2. A pertinent example would be of what happened during demonetisation
  3. Private road developers did not have the bargaining power to offset revenue loss when tolls were suspended in the absence of a renegotiation clause for unforeseen circumstances in concession agreements
  4. Therefore, the government should facilitate timely compensation by embedding it in the “change in law” clause of concession agreements

The way forward

  1. Enhancing the enforceability of contracts and striving for predictability in execution are necessary to attract private capital in crucial infrastructure sectors such as roads
  2. Going the whole hog on HAM— and EPC—and stretching the fiscal deficit would be folly
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

‘9,000 km of NH laid in FY 2018’


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Infrastructure development is an important topic for Mains Paper 3.


News

20% increase in construction

  1. According to ministry for Road Transport and Highways, over 9,829 km of National Highways was constructed during the financial year 2017-18,
  2. recording a growth of 20% over the previous year
  3. The target of constructing 40 km a day would be achieved by the end of this fiscal

New method of calculating highways construction

  1. The Minister also announced that the government would adopt international norms for calculating highways construction from this fiscal
  2. The new method would would include measuring lane kilometres instead of linear distance
    Old method
  3. Until now, whether government constructed (1 kilometre of) six lanes or 14 lanes, it was considered as 1 kilometre, but the world standard is different
  4. This method did not truly reflect the amount of work completed, and that globally the length of each lane was calculated separately

Road development in the financial year 2018

  1. Works for 17,055 km of road length were awarded in the financial year 2018, of which 9,829 km had been constructed as compared to 8,231 km in the year before
  2. An expenditure of Rs. 1,16,324 crore was incurred last fiscal
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

NHAI plan for taxable bonds to fund Bharatmala scheme worries govt


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims Level: Bharatmala Project, NSC certificates, etc.

Mains Level: Concerns raised by the government


News

What is the issue?

  1. The finance ministry has flagged concerns over state-run National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI’s) plan to float taxable bonds
  2. The NHAI wants to raise Rs3,000 crore to finance the ambitious Bharatmala scheme for road construction
  3. The plan to float taxable bonds came after the Union budget failed to provide any budgetary assistance for Bharatmala

What are the concerns?

  1. The concerns range from the impact of these bonds on other instruments such as National Savings Certificates (NSC) to the quantum of the float

Particulars of the Bharatmala Scheme

  1. The total length to be developed as expressways under Bharatmala will be 51,000km
  2. India plans to invest as much as Rs5.97 trillion in the current fiscal to bankroll its new integrated infrastructure programme, which involves building of roads, railways, waterways and airports
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

India’s 1st pod taxi on the way, to follow U.S. safety norms


Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), Automated people mover (APM) standards, PPP

Mains level: New modes of high-speed transportation being adopted in India and all aspects related to them


India’s first pod taxi project moves a step forward

  1. The projected pod taxi scheme — also known as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)  has moved a step closer to reality
  2. PRT is an advanced public transport using automated electric pod cars to provide a taxi-like demand responsive feeder and shuttle services for small groups of travelers and is a green mode of uninterrupted journey
  3. A high-level panel recommended inviting fresh bids for the same conforming to the strictest safety standards on the lines of those prescribed by an American body

About the project

  1. NHAI has been mandated to execute it on Delhi-Gurgaon pilot corridor from Delhi-Haryana border to Rajiv Chowk in Gurgaon on a PPP (public-private partnership) basis
  2. It will be incorporating Automated People Movers (APM) standards and specifications, along with other general safety parameters with Niti Aayog recommendations

Automated people mover (APM) standards in the US

  1. These are recommended by the committee for the maiden PRT in India and have been prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  2. These constitute the minimum requirements for an acceptable level of safety and performance for the PRT
  3. These include vehicle arrival audio and video visual warning system, platform sloping, evacuation of misaligned vehicles, surveillance/CCTV, audio communication, emergency call points and fire protection, among other advanced systems

Is this first pod taxi project in the world?

  1. The model is in place at London’s Heathrow airport, Morgantown and Masdar city
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Government approves Rs 7 lakh crore highway projects including Bharatmala


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Prelims: Bharatmala, Public Investment Board.

Mains level: Not Much.

 


News

Context

The government approved Rs 7 lakh crore worth highway projects including the ambitious Bharatmala.

Bharatmala Project

  1. The Bharatmala project will build over 20,000 km of highways in the first phase in border and other areas.
  2. Bharatmala is a mega plan of the government and the second-largest highways project after NHDP that saw development of about 50,000 km, and aims at improving connectivity.
  3. Detailed project reports (DPRs) are being prepared for the Bharatmala

Economic Corridor development project

  1. The Cabinet also gave the go ahead to other highway projects for development of over 80,000 km of highways including Bharatmala project in the next five years.
  2. It also includes economic corridor developments aimed at faster movement of cargo.
  3. The government had earlier planned to develop economic corridors with a length of about 21,000 km besides 14,000 km of feeder routes.
  4. The corridors included Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi, to name a few.
  5. A study under the proposed Bharatmala project by global consultancy firm AT Kearney had identified 44 economic corridors.

Public Investment Board

  1. The Prime Minister’s Office had asked for Public Investment Board’s (PIB) clearance to the first phase of the project.
  2. PIB, chaired by the expenditure secretary had later approved it.
  3. Other members of PIB included secretaries of economic affairs, Niti Aayog, statistics and programme implementation, environment and forests, besides the secretary of the administrative ministry

 


Back2basics

Bharatmala project

  1. Bharatmala envisions 44 economic corridors across the country at a cost of at least Rs 5 lakh crore.
  2. The programme also envisions to enhance NHAI’s powers.
  3. The Bharatmala corridors have been mapped as per traffic density and economic relevance of the cities that will be connected with the help of the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics.
  4. The project involves constructing 24,000km of fresh highways.
  5. The project is aimed at speeding up cargo movement and the development of multimodal logistics hubs and parks on the periphery of major commercial centres.
  6. The project includes construction of feeder routes alongside national highways.
  7. Around 80% of Bharatmala will be based on a government funded, engineering procurement and construction (EPC) model while the rest will be a hybrid-annuity public private partnership.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Infra needs $150-$300 bn. equity over 5 years II


  1. PPP: The NIIF will work on creating smart public private partnerships (PPPs) to fund projects of unprecedented scale
  2. It will also continuously suggest policy improvements to support infrastructure sector investments
  3. In the past: Capital was invested on a fragmented basis by companies that had relatively little access to equity
  4. As a result, they took a more short-term development oriented approach to investing
  5. What we are hoping and expect to do at NIIF, is to complement the short-term development capital
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Infra needs $150-$300 bn. equity over 5 years I


  1. Source: National Investment and Infrastructure Fund CEO Sujoy Bose
  2. Amount: India needs $150 billion to $300 billion of equity over the next five years to drive infrastructure investments
  3. NIIF will start operations with a first-phase corpus of $6 billion
  4. It will focus on equity and quasi-equity investments at a scale never seen before in India as it will be six times larger than the biggest infrastructure fund currently
  5. The private or public sectors can’t meet this investment demand on their own
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Govt sets rules for speedy redressal of construction sector disputes- II


  1. Rule: Govt agencies and public bodies would pay 75% of the money to the contractors in cases of any dispute
  2. Aim: To infuse liquidity into the stressed construction sector and help create more jobs
  3. Issue: There are a large number of projects where payments have not been made and consequently the contractors have not been able to pay the banks
  4. Therefore, it has adversely impacted the balance sheet of both the companies and the banks as a result of which the projects have come to a halt
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Govt sets rules for speedy redressal of construction sector disputes- I


  1. What? Whenever there are disputes pending between public bodies and construction contractors under the old arbitration Act, which was time consuming, there will be an option to shift them to the new arbitration procedure which is cheaper and faster
  2. Conciliation: In all new contracts relating to construction, there will be a conciliation board provision which will consist of independent subject experts
  3. Why? Because when commercial circumstances change and public servants are reluctant to participate in the renegotiation, there will be a contractual mechanism under which those terms could be renegotiated without bringing the projects to a standstill
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Cabinet nod for Rs.27,000 cr. roads and railways projects


  1. Aim: To boost economic growth
  2. Background: The government plans to increase its investments in the infrastructure sector
  3. Budget docs: About 8,300 kilometres of roads involving more than Rs.1 lakh crore investments were revived
  4. Total investments earmarked in the current fiscal for roads and railways sectors amounts to Rs.2.18 lakh crore
  5. Ports: Augmenting port capacity by developing greenfield projects in both eastern and western coasts
  6. Aviation: The Centre plans to revive torpid airports
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Centre notifies Good Samaritan SOPs


  1. News: Centre issued a notification on Good Samaritans which would go a long way in encouraging witnesses to report accidents to the police
  2. The affidavit of Good Samaritan, a person who voluntarily declares himself to be an eyewitness, shall be treated by the investigating officer as a final statement
  3. Aim: No bystander rushing to the rescue of an accident victim should be subject to civil or criminal liability and/or be forced to be a witness
  4. Any disclosure of personal information or offer to be a witness, in the event of the Good Samaritan also being an eyewitness to an accident, ought to be voluntary
  5. The examination of such a volunteer as a witness shall be done only on a single occasion and without harassment or intimidation
  6. Background: The notification is in response to Supreme Court directions in an October 2014 case of SaveLIFE Foundation asking the Centre to issue directions to save Good Samaritans until Parliament frames a law
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill introduced in LS


 


  1. Proposals: Introduce online learning licence
  2. Simplify insurance provisions for early help to victims, families
  3. Increase renewal deadline for driving licences from one month to six months
  4. Increase period of renewal of transport licence from three to five years
  5. Allow licence for the differently abled
  6. Allow states to relax provisions related to permits, to boost public transport
  7. Increase fines and penalties for traffic violations
  8. To make a provision for protection of those who stop and help in a mishap
  9. To create national registries for driving licence and vehicle registration
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Multi-modal logistics park to come up in south Goa


  1. MoU: The Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) and Container Corporation of India Ltd. (CONCOR) will enter into a memorandum of understandings
  2. Aim: To set up a multi modal logistics park (MMLP) at Balli railway station in south Goa
  3. MMLP: Initially spread over 94,000 square meters with a scope for expansion as the traffic may grow in future
  4. This logistics park will be able to handle both domestic and export-import container traffic
  5. In addition to container traffic, commodities transported by both open and covered wagons can also be handled from here
  6. Both, trade and industry in Goa will greatly benefit from the economic transport solutions the state-of-the-art facilities will provide
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Interlinking of highways on anvil


  1. Context: Govt has prepared a roadmap to connect some of the major national highways in the country
  2. Aim: Inter-linking the highways from North to South and East to West in the pattern of a grid, allowing smooth and uninterrupted access from one region to another
  3. Grid formation or connecting the national highways in the form of a grid is one of the basic practices of highway planning
  4. The National Highways Authority of India has prepared a grid of 27 vertical and horizontal highways for connection
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Gadkari proposes four-member panel to resolve road sector issuesSC Judgements


  1. News: The Road Transport and Highways Minister has proposed that the resolution of disputes over stalled projects be tasked to a 4-member panel led by a former HC judge
  2. Reason: A lot of cases related to stalled projects are pending in the Supreme Court and the High courts
  3. Statistics:  In 2014, there were 384 stuck road projects
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Centre to sign pacts worth over Rs.72,000 cr at shipping summit


  1. News: Agreements with private players on port-related projects at the Indian Maritime Summit to be held in Mumbai next month
  2. Context: Over 150 projects will be showcased for investment under the Sagarmala Project for port modernisation
  3. Sectors identified: Include ship-building, ship repair and recycling, port modernisation, new port development and multi-model logistic hubs among others
  4. Opportunities: To create 40 lakh direct employment and 50 lakh indirect employment in 5 yrs in maritime sector
  5. Sagarmala Project: Programmes include port modernisation, port connectivity and port-led industrialisation besides coastal community development
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Infrastructure project delays will be a thing of the past, says Finance Minister


  1. News: There are several measures taken by govt. to fast track the delayed projects
  2. Measures:  A statutory mechanism would be created to negotiate cost escalations under an oversight would be put into operation
  3. The recently enacted arbitration law provided a fast-track mechanism to resolve cases within a year.
  4. Commercial divisions are created in every High Court to handle the legal issues
  5. Challenges: As project proceeds, there are cost escalation due to increase in cost of raw material and labour
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

PM Modi launches ‘Setu Bharatam’ project


  1. News: Setu Bharatam programme for building bridges for safe and seamless travel on National Highways
  2. Aim: To make all national highways free from railway level crossing by 2019 to ensure road safety
  3. How? Very old bridges will be reconstructed and revamped along with 208 rail-over bridges & rail-under bridges
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

India needs i-ways and highways: PM


  1. Context: PM Modi launches, the Rs. 50,000 crore Setu Bharatam project
  2. Aim: To make all national highways free from railway level-crossings by 2019 to ensure road safety
  3. Under the project: 208 rail overbridges and under bridges will be built at a cost of Rs. 20,800 crore
  4. 1,500 decade-old bridges will be reconstructed and revamped, spending Rs. 30,000 crore
  5. Way forward: Country needs both highways and i-ways (information ways), referring to digital connect
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

New credit rating system for infra: Budget


  1. Earlier: Relied upon a standard perception of risk
  2. Negative Points: This often result in mispriced loans
  3. New way: Emphasis to various in-built credit enhancement structures
  4. Positive Point: Help infra projects access credit from multiple sources at better rates
  5. Unclear about: How the new system would be different from the existing one
  6. Also whether it would be for operational projects or under-development projects or both
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Infrastructure gets the much needed push


  1. News: There is a record budgetary allocation of Rs. 2.21 lakh crore for infrastructure sector
  2. Roads: The roads sector has been allocated Rs. 97,000 crore, including Rs. 19,000 crore earmarked under the PM Gram Sadak Yojna
  3. Ports: A series of measures for modernising existing ports and building new ports along India’s east and west coasts, through PPP mode
  4. Objective: To revive investments in the sector with the participation of the private players
  5. Impact: It will provide impetus for enhanced growth and in turn, generate employment
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Govt. to build more national highways: Gadkari


  1. Context: The govt has decided to increase the length of national highways from 96,000 km to 2 lakh km
  2. Reason: To decongest traffic in the country because 40% of the traffic moves on national highways and as a result 5 lakh accidents take place
  3. How the highways will be chosen? – A formula based on vehicular traffic, according to which 4-lane, 6-lane and express highways would be constructed
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Policy to scrap old vehicles to be sent to Cabinet by month end


  1. The govt. is working on a plan to phase out old vehicles from the roads
  2. The Road Transport Ministry also tried to convince Finance Ministry to introduce new schemes in the next Budget that would help the auto sector
  3. The auto industry has been demanding a uniform policy in this regard for a long time
  4. Scrapping of old vehicles will not only create a market for new vehicles but also help in reducing the pollution to some extent
  5. Automobile manufacturers have expressed doubts on whether BS-VI compatible fuel would be available in time as the entire country is yet to be covered by BS-IV, although it was introduced in 2010
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Government may ask central bank to consider roads as a priority sector


  1. The govt. will soon approach the RBI Governor with a proposal to include road projects under the priority sector list for lending purposes.
  2. It will also seek review of the NPA norms to revive Rs. 40,000-crore worth of highway projects.
  3. One of the main reasons behind the delay in highway projects is shortage of funds.
  4. The road contractors said that banks were reluctant to fund projects due to mounting NPAs.
  5. The govt officials argue that the managerial inefficiencies of developers have stalled these projects.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Gadkari announces Rs 50,000 crore for infra projects in TN


Prime Minister Modi would lay foundation stone for the much-anticipated Colechal Port Project before March 8 along with the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

  1. Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping said the Centre had sanctioned Rs. 33,000 crore.
  2. For infrastructure projects including construction of Rail-Over-Bridges (ROB), upgradation of state highways into National Highways and major bridges.
  3. The 39 NH projects for a length of 1,974 km at an estimated cost of Rs. 12,000 crore are under progress.
  4. A sum of Rs. 300 crore has been sanctioned for construction of 4 flyovers in Kanyakumari district in Ozhiginaseri, Vadaseri, Thuckalay and Chettikulam.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Right trackop-ed snap


Connecting the northeastern capitals by rail will produce enormous dividends.

  1. First broad-gauge locomotive has rolled into the capital of Tripura on a trial run,passenger services will commence in March, and travellers will be able to ride directly to Kolkata.
  2. Bus service already connects the two cities but the route cuts through Bangladesh. This excludes travellers without passports
  3. This is the first step in a long overdue project, deadlined for 2020, to connect the capitals of all the northeastern states to the rest of India.
  4. By 2017, a line will be laid to Akhaura in Bangladesh, which will offer through connectivity all the way to Chittagong.
  5. Railway system has served India as a great unifier, binding together diverse cultures in a web of steel.
  6. This project will reduce the psychological distances which seem to sequester the Northeast.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Road Ministry proposes policy on scrapping vehicles


  1. The govt may announce cash and tax benefits to owners of old vehicles if they scrap and replace them in the Union Budget this year.
  2. It may also double the fleet of public transport buses to check pollution.
  3. The Road & Transport Ministry has requested at least 50% rebate in excise duty to people who, on purchase of new vehicles, give their old vehicles in exchange for scrapping.
  4. This will be a part of the proposed ‘end of life’ policy for old vehicles.
  5. A separate environment-friendly industry to scrap old vehicles is proposed.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Satellite technology to help NHAI monitor highway projects


  1. NHAI has signed MoU with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) under ISRO and North East Centre for Technology Application and Research (NECTAR).
  2. For use of spatial technology for monitoring and managing National Highways.
  3. The use of satellite data and geospatial technology will be useful in providing inputs in highway and infrastructure projects.
  4. NECTAR, Department of Science and Technology uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for acquiring aerial images for infrastructure planning.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

J&K town gets a cable bridge, comes closer to rest of country


  1. North India’s first cable-stayed bridge named Atal Setu was inaugurated on Dunera-Basohli-Bhadharwah road in Kathua district of J&K.
  2. The work of bridge started in September 2011.
  3. It has been constructed by Border Roads Organization (BRO) at a cost of Rs 145 crore.
  4. The bridge is strategically important from the defence point of view.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

NHAI approves pilot project for developing greenbelts along highways


The project will be implemented on a 5 km stretch on NH-7 between Jam and Hinganghat in Nagpur region at an estimated cost of Rs 11.80 crore.

  1. Around 20,000 trees of scientifically chosen species have been proposed to be planted on both sides of the stretch in multiple rows.
  2. The work activities delineated into two major factors, highway requirement, objectives and plant characteristics to fit in the site requirement.
  3. The project will also assist in developing relevant research infrastructure that may be used for similar studies in future.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Govt launches Green Highways Policy


Green Highways (Plantation, Transplantation, Beautification & Maintenance) Policy 2015, aims at planting trees along 6,000 km of highways in the first year

  1. Aim is to help the environment, help local communities, and generate employment by planting trees along all the highways in the country.
  2. The Green Highway Policy will help in making India pollution free. It will also help in curtailing the number of road accidents in India.
  3. The vision of the policy is to provide dignified employment to local people and communities.
  4. The vision of the policy is to develop eco-friendly National Highways with the participation of the community, NGOs, private sector and the Forest Department for economic growth and development in a sustainable manner.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

US investors show interest in highway projects


New projects worth $45 billion under National Highways Development Programme discussed.

  1. A group of investors from the US expressed interest in investing in the highways sector in India.
  2. Investments opportunities to the tune of Rs 60,000-70,000 crore for maintaining completed highways & new projects, estimated at $45 billion under the National Highways Development Programme.
  3. The investors were keen on operations contracts for completed stretches of public-funded highways on the TOT (toll-operate-transfer) basis.
  4. It would help the government mobilise additional resources for new highways across the country.
  5. Under the TOT model, completed stretches of highways by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) or a concessionaire will be bid out to the private sector for a concession period of 30 yrs.
  6. A big push in the roads sector is key to the govt’s infrastructure focus, wherein it has target to award highway projects worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Govt. plans green road corridors


The Union government plans to unveil its Green Highways policy.

  1. The bushes and trees will be grown along all the highways in a phased manner.
  2. The purpose of this policy is to promote the greening of highway corridors with the participation of the local community, including local contractors and the local Forest Department.
  3. The latent objective is to generate employment too.
  4. The investment in the project would be Rs. 1,000 crore this year, as 1% of the Rs. 1 lakh-crore investment in national highway projects expected in this year.
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

Roads, power investments rise


  1. The is a 48% rise in the announcement of new projects in the first quarter of FY 2015-16 as compared to same period previous year.
  2. The govt. has gone to great lengths to convey its success in getting stalled projects moving and also in boosting new investments, especially in the road sector.
  3. The road transport sector has seen a sharp growth in investment since the NDA govt. has come to power.

Challenges, opportunities & criticism of the Real Estate Regulatory Bill 2016

The Real Estate Regulatory Bill, 2016 is being hailed as a much-needed step to reform the real estate sector. It will help regulate the sector and bring in clarity for both buyers and developers.

What was the need for regulation in the real estate?

  • The real estate sector has some issues such as a lengthy process for project approvals, lack of clear land titles, and prevalence of black money
  • There wasn’t complete transparency as far as govt approvals were concerned
  • There were also instances when projects were sold without adequate clearances
  • The delayed projects, sometimes by up to years and arbitrary changes in layout plans are rampant in the sector

How does the Bill seeks to regulate the sector?

The basic thrust of this Bill is to regulate the delivery of projects to home buyers. It provides them a legal safeguard for their investment, and seeks to address timely delivery of houses. It seeks to enforce the contract between the developer and buyer and act as a fast track mechanism to settle disputes

  • It establishes state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERA)
  • The Bill establishes state level tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals.  Decisions of RERAs can be appealed in these tribunals
  • It makes mandatory the disclosure of all information for registered projects like details of promoters, layout plan, land status, schedule of execution and status of various approvals
  • The Bill prohibits a developer from changing the plan in a project unless two-thirds of the allottees have agreed for such a change
  • It says that builders must specify the time-frame for completion of projects and stick to it, or be ready to pay penalties
  • The Bill mandates that 70% of the amount collected from buyers of a project be used only for construction of that project This provision will effectively allow developers to continue their practice of diverting funds collected for a project towards land acquisition or other projects, and will work in their favour by also allowing them to grow their land and/or project portfolio>

How will the Real Estate Regulatory Authorities help improve the sector?

  • Residential real estate projects need to be registered with RERAs, except few
  • Promoters cannot book or offer these projects for sale without registering them
  • Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with RERAs
  • On registration, the promoter need to provide details of the project to the RERA

Challenges ahead

  • The Bill will make life difficult for builders, as they would face more red-tapeism now, especially in procuring relevant approvals.
  • This Bill does not address the developers demand of a single-window clearance from the govt
  • The implementation of the Bill is up to the states, it leaves builders with greater chances of being harassed

Impact

  • Timely completion of projects would lead to a steady increase in supply of homes
  • It is expected that these measures will eventually bring down home prices and increase demand
  • It will be good for the overall economy too, as the housing sector has strong backward (cement, steel and other building material industries) and forward (furniture and furnishings, interior decoration, electrical and electronics) linkages with other industries
  • More number of job creation in the economy

Criticism

  • The builder lobbies argued that the bill should have a time-frame for municipal and other authorities to give timely approvals, because the delay in approvals lead to delays in handing over possession of apartments
  • In terms of pricing, which is governed by circle rates, it will be difficult to monitor

Future

  • The states’ support for faster clearances to projects will be required to make this Bill successful
  • Govt is also trying to bring in a National Urban Rental Housing Policy, which would take into account the requirements of tenancy hassles in modern days

Published with inputs from Pushpendra


 

Sagarmala Project: Smart ports for Blue Revolution in India

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Modi, on March,2015 gave its ‘in-principle’ approval for the concept and institutional framework of Sagarmala Project. Let’s take a glance on it.


What’s the prime objective of Sagarmala?

The prime objective of the Sagarmala project is to promote port-led direct and indirect development and to provide infrastructure to transport goods to and from ports quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively.

What’s the current issue and background of ports in India?

  • At present there are around 200 ports (small and big) in the country, of these, only 12 are major ports which are government owned ports, which handle about 58% of sea-borne traffic.
  • These major ports operate as Trusts under the Major Ports Trust Act, 1963, except for the Port of Ennore, which is a company under the Companies Act.
  • There are legacy issues with these govt owned major ports, they do not keep pace with emerging technology, requirements of international trade, emerging trends in containerisation, flexible rules, size of ships etc.

Which are the 12 Major Ports ?

These are Kolkata (including Dock Complex at Haldia), Visakhapatnam, Chennai, V.O. Chidambaranar (Tuticorin), Cochin, New Mangalore, Mormugao, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), Mumbai, Kandla and Ennore.


Just, Look back into the history?

In 2003, then PM Vajpayee proposed Project Sagarmala with following features:

  • Setup Sagarmala Development Authority (Similar to National highway authority of India).
  • It will get money via Maritime development cess. (5 paise per kg on cargo).
  • It will improve ports, shipping industry, inland water transport, coastal shipping.
  • PPP and FDI to gather more investment.

Then, which are the Key pillars to achieve Smart-development ?

  • Supporting and enabling Port-led Development through appropriate policy and institutional interventions.
  • Providing for an institutional framework for ensuring inter-agency and states’ collaboration for integrated development.
  • Port Infrastructure Enhancement, including modernization and setting up of new ports.
  • Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.

What are some of the measures to make Smart Ports?

  • Ports should be registered as Companies under Companies Act.
  • The port administration should only look after the provisions of infrastructure and safety and not day-to-day running of the port
  • There is still no regulation to control the trade practices.
  • Hence, there is a dire need to introduce a regulatory architecture that takes care of ex-ante declaration of rates of services.

Then, what’s the plan to implement such a vast initiative?

  • For a comprehensive and integrated planning for “Sagarmala”, a National Perspective Plan (NPP) for the entire coastline shall be prepared within six months.
  • It will identify potential geographical regions to be called Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ).
  • While preparing the NPP, synergy and integration with planned Industrial Corridors, Dedicated Freight Corridors, National Highway Development Programme, Industrial Clusters and SEZs would be ensured.

What are the suggestions for effective mechanism at state level?

  • Set up State Sagarmala Committee to be headed by CM / Minister in Charge of Ports.
  • Sagarmala Coordination and Steering Committee (SCSC) shall be constituted under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary and others.
  • This Committee will provide coordination between ministries, state governments and agencies connected with implementation and review the progress of implementation of the National Perspective Plan.

How does it ensure the sustainable development in CEZ?

  • This would be done by synergising and coordinating with State Governments and line Ministries of Central Government through their existing programmes.
  • Such as those related to community and rural development, tribal development and employment generation, fisheries, skill development, tourism promotion etc.
  • In order to provide funding for such projects and activities that may be covered by departmental schemes a separate fund by the name ‘Community Development Fund’ would be created.

What’s the role of Institutional Framework ?

  • It has to provide for a coordinating role for the Central Government.
  • It should provide a platform for central, state governments and local authorities to work in tandem and coordination under the established principles of cooperative federalism.

What’s the role of NSAC?

A National Sagarmala Apex Committee (NSAC) is envisaged for overall policy guidance and high level coordination, and to review various aspects of planning and implementation of the plan and projects.

So, Is it Good to have smart ports on the line of Smart Cities?

Can you answer some questions?

#1. Can you examine the bottlenecks in Indian port infrastructure and list the initiative taken in recent times to address this issue?

#Q.2 Indian port infrastructure can be revamped by Sagarmala project by effective management? critically comment.


Published with inputs from Arun

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