Jharkhand hoping PPPs will attract investors

July 28, 2006

Jharkhand is yet to see the concept of public-private partnership (PPP) take off in any form, especially on its 7,000-odd km network of roads and bridges. The state has not itself tried out the concept; it has seen the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) thrice floating tenders for the Ranchi-Barhi road on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis without evoking any response from the private sector. And the Barhi-Ranchi stretch is said to be the state’s highest traffic corridor!

“Let’s see what happens here (at the PWD level), as we are going to launch the concept in the state soon,” said an apprehensive senior road construction department bureaucrat. Says DK Tiwari, secretary of the department: “We are now seeking to get some roads on that (PPP) basis.”

Also, the government now wants NHAI to transform the busy Ranchi-Jamshedpur road into a four-lane stretch, the detailed project report (DPR) for which is under preparation. With recent recent Union surface transport ministry guidelines saying all such projects should first be tried on a BOT basis, it remains to be seen if the private sector views the project any differently.

The state has, since its formation in November 2000, spent around Rs 950 crore on construction, strengthening and widening of its road network. “Our expenditure on roads matches that of any other state on budgetary support,” said Pravin Kumar, deputy secretary with the road construction department. Obviously, officials feel, much more could be done if the private sector were to invest.

Asked why the private sector was shying away, a knowledgeable bureaucrat said, “it could be that they feel they may not be able to recoup the money.”

Jharkhand is, however, going to have its first toll bridge, the Rs 42 crore Adityapur project over the river Kharkai in Jamshedpur, which would link the city with the Adityapur industrial area on the other side.

A joint venture between Tata Steel and the state, with IL&FS also involved, the project is to take off around September-October. “That will be a pilot project and if that succeeds, may be that will act as an eye-opener for other PPPs,” observed Mr Kumar. The department is not facing problems on acquisition of land for road construction.

Of the 7,000 km of roads with it, the state PWD has, from 2001 till now, upgraded around 2,600 km. The road construction department is carrying out a “strengthening and widening” programme from 2004-05. Around 1,300 km is scheduled for attention in this financial year. The main constraint is budgetary.

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