TAKING A ‘U’ TURN ON ONE-WAY ROAD

about 16 days ago
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Shiv Sena’s first CM will be sworn in today. And even before taking charge, the belligerent and vindictive Sena, hurt by the BJP, will try everything it can to reverse earlier approved infra projects.

There is also a hint of things to come – it wants to hit BJP where it hurts the most so it said that the Sena might scuttle their pet peeve projects of Mumbai – the bullet train to Ahmedabad and Nanar Oil refinery. It also warned of ordering an enquiry into cutting down precious trees in Aarey Colony by MMRCL in the middle of the night.

The Sena spokesperson clearly said that projects which are opposed to by the local people will be allowed to go ahead.  Right from day one, ever since Modi announced this project, the Sena was against this project and many in Mumbai too wondered about the logic behind this bullet train when the local infrastructure in the state in crumbling.

This comes on the back of Andhra Pradesh where it too went back on projects which were already contracted and awarded after a new Govt led by Jagmohan Reddy was sworn in on 1st July. It recently, on 11th Nov decided on the closure of the Amaravati Capital City Startup Area project. Prior to that there was the unilateral cancellation of the Polavaram dam project. What really spooked everyone was the Govt’s move to go back on already signed contracts to buy power from solar and wind farms – it wanted to bring down the tariff by 50%. Though the state High Court stayed this decision, a feeling of uncertainty has set in.

When politics comes to the forefront and already signed contracts get either cancelled or renegotiated, it is cause for great concern. What is the sanctity of the agreements then? If a Govt at the state level changes and starts reneging on contracts signed by the outgoing Govt, doesn’t it make a joke out of the entire business of awarding contracts and building infrastructure?

Agreed that the contracts could have been scrapped or will be scrapped based on viability issues which the earlier Govt overlooked under political duress. But where was the voice of the opposition then? Shiv Sena did so much to get to power – why did it not do the same when the Bullet train project as being signed? Because it was with the BJP then, it looked on while it knew all along it was not right?

Thus when politics starts taking over infra projects, it marks a very dangerous time. This kind of behavior will drive away all private sector participation. It also brings into fore the weakness of project execution. We are very good when it comes to planning and putting things on paper but project execution or delivery we are utter failures.

The biggest risk we now have is the weak enforcement of contracts. We have all right legalities in place but once again, when we know that remedial action is never quick, projects go on and on for generations. Though our law has systems in place that specifies we must honour contracts, there is no law which prevents the state Govt’s from acting in such arbitrary and monopolistic manner. And such a law is what is urgently required or this could spread all across India; as such private investment is poor and this will only further scare them away. Not to mention the foreign investors; they will not tolerate such immature behavior.

Yes, Mumbai does not need the bullet train as that money could be used to better the existing infrastructure, rescue people from endless hours of wasting time and fuel in traffic and build long lasting, pot-hole free roads. But reneging now, after contracts are signed – that’s truly unprofessional, making one question once again about India becoming a five trillion economy.

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