Rajiv Kumar: New NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman

Economist Dr. Rajiv Kumar has been appointed (August 5, 2017) as the new Vice-Chairman of the government think tank NITI Aayog. Present vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya had stepped down earlier this month. The Columbia University professor will be returning to the U.S. to rejoin academia.  Dr. Vinod Paul, pediatrician at AIIMS, has also been appointed as a member of the NITI Aayog.

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, who holds a DPhil in economics from Oxford and a Ph.D from Lucknow University, has served as director and chief executive of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), and has earlier worked with the Asian Development Bank. He was also a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research. He has written a book titled Modi and His Challenges. In chapter 2  of the book titled “Ideals, Ideology and Influences” , he has dealt with the period before Narendra Modi became chief minister of Gujarat. This doesn’t have material that is new or unknown and draws extensively on earlier books by M V Kamath and Kalindi Randeri, Andy Marino, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, Sudesh Verma and Madhu Kishwar. Having immersed himself in these biographies, Mr Kumar gives us the core biographic details and lists 14 “principle [sic] drivers of Modi’s behavior”. He adds, “It will be interesting to examine if some of the traits enumerated have found their expression in Modi’s administration over 12 years in Gujarat”. In chapter 3,  he has examined the Gujarat model. At one place he hasexpressed surprise why Modi has , for some mysterious reasons, consciously dispensed with the prime minister’s economic advisory council; abolished also the national manufacturing competitiveness council; not appointed a professional economist in the PMO, as also not a media adviser; and also replaced the erstwhile planning commission with a rather sharply-pruned reincarnation in the form of NITI Aayog [sic]…There might be merit in having regular access to a variety of opinions and inputs, especially when one is on a learning curve. He has in his interviews with media emphasized the need for growth of the manufacturing sector, employment creation to take advantage of demographic dividend and skill formation as important challenges in front of Modi government.

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Asia-Africa Growth Corridor

India launched a vision document for Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) on 25 May 2017 at the African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat.The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor or AAGC is an economic cooperation agreement between the governments of India and Japan.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shinjo Abe first conceived the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor during their last summit in Tokyo in November 2016.

The vision document  of the AAGC has been developed based on consultations from the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS),New Delhi, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia(ERIA), Jakarta, and Institute of Developing Economies (IDE-JETRO), Tokyo, along with Asian and African think-tanks. It aims for Indo-Japanese collaboration to develop quality infrastructure in Africa, complemented by digital connectivity, which would undertake the realization of the idea of creating free and open Indo-Pacific Region.

Priority to health, agriculture and disaster management

 The AAGC will give priority to development projects in health and pharmaceuticals, agriculture and agro-processing, disaster management and skill enhancement. The connectivity aspects of the AAGC will be supplemented with quality infrastructure.

Essentially a sea corridor

Unlike OBOR which entails development of a land corridor, AAGC will essentially be a sea corridor linking Africa with India and other countries of South-East Asia and Oceania by rediscovering ancient sea-routes and creating new sea corridors that will link ports in Jamnagar (Gujarat) with Djibouti in the Gulf of Eden and similarly the ports of Mombasa and Zanzibar will be connected to ports near Madurai; Kolkata will be linked to Sittwe port in Myanmar. In fact India being the largest country in the India Ocean region does not want to allow China to incrrease its strategic influence with maritime silk route project at the cost of India’s traditional presence and influence in the Indian Ocean region.

Four main components

The AAGC would consist of four main components: development and cooperation projects, quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity, capacity and skill enhancement and people-to-people partnerships. These four components as well as four elements or four pillars are complementary to promote growth and all round development in both the continents.

Fields of collaboration

According to the vision document many fields of collaboration were laid out. Digital connectivity will also support the growth of innovative technology and services between Asia and Africa. There is scope for Asia to share its experiences of growth and development with Africa, according to persons involved in the project. It consists of five remarkable aspects. These aspects are: (a) effective mobilization of financial resources; (b) their alignment with socio-economic development and development strategies of partner countries and regions; (c) application of high-quality standards in terms of compliance with international standards established to mitigate environmental and social impact; (d) provision of quality of infrastructure taking into account aspects of economic efficiency and durability, inclusiveness, safety and disaster-resilience, sustainability as well as convenience and amenities; and (e) contribution to the local society and economy

Strategic Importance

The new initiative is being seen as a move by New Delhi and Tokyo to counter Beijing’s bids toexpandits geopolitical influenceinAsia and Africa, particularlythroughits One-Belt-One-Road cross-continental connectivity initiative. The vision of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor is being developed on the four pillars–Development and Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, Enhancing Capacities and Skills and People-to-People Partnerships. Thus the collaboration is not related with any expansionist or military agenda but cooperation for development and partnership between the people of the regions. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar clarified that the partners of the proposed AAGC  would naturally like the initiative (Asia-Africa Growth Corridor) to be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. He further added that there must be a strong sense of local ownership that can only happen with consultative project designing, transfer of technology and encouragement of skills. This may be seen in the context of India’s opposition to CPEC. India has been particularly opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key component of the OBOR of China. The CPEC is proposed to pass through areas New Delhi claims to be integral parts of Jammu and Kashmir state of India and accuses Islamabad of illegally occupying. New Delhi has been accusing Beijing of infringing on sovereignty of India by joining Pakistan for the CPEC project. “Our activities must fully conform to balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards.”

Tokyo, unlike New Delhi, has joined the Belt-and-Road initiative of Beijing. But Japan’s troubled ties with China has cast a shadow over its participation in the communist country’s international connectivity initiative, which has of late been also criticized for putting the smaller participating nations at the risk of being caught in a debt-trap. In this backdrop Indi’s Foreign Scretary pointed out, “No less important is ensuring of financial responsibility, so that there is no encouragement of unsustainable debts.” China along it OBOR and Maritime Silk Route is known for poor project governance, environment management and creating debt burden for the participating countries. The Indo-Japanese initiative would be better in these respects creating more acceptibility among the participating countries.

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India is situated north of the equator between 8°4′ to 37°6′ north latitude and 68°7′ to 97°25′ east longitude. It is the seventh-largest country in the world, with a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometres (1,269,219 sq mi). India measures 3,214 km (1,997 mi) from north to south and 2,933 km (1,822 mi) from east to west. It has a land frontier of 15,200 km (9,445 mi) and a coastline of 7,516.6 km (4,671 mi). Such a vast country is inhibited by about 130 crore people.

Need and Importance of transport connectivity

It is realized that India needs better transport connectivity for realizing higher growth rate- 7-8 per cent in medium term and double digit growth rate in the long run. Today the Indian economy is recognized as an emerging market with an average GDP growth of about 7 per cent and per capita GDP growth of 4.5 per cent in last some years, making it one of the fastest growing big economies of the world. As the economic activities are expanding and the aspirations of people are rising, movement and migration of the Indian population from one region to the other region is increasing both  in terms of inter- state and inter- district movement and migration. The recent studies best on big data reveal that every year about 9 million people migrate in India from one place to the other place. As India is pursuing industrialization programmes, especially, make in India, it needs to have better connectivity for the movement of inputs and labour force. The logistics need would increase far more in the coming times as India would try to increase the share of manufacturing sector in its GDP. It is also important to have good transport infrastructure to attract foreign investment. The share of trade in India’s GDP has also increased post liberalization to about 53 per cent, double that of China. India’s share in global trade is about 1. Per cent, but it is expected to increase faster in the coming days. Therefore India not only needs to develop its ports, but also connect them with rail-road.

There are three big connectivity projects underway in India.


Bharatmala is an ambitious road and highways project of Government of India, with an envisaged investment of Rs10 trillion—the largest ever outlay for a government road construction scheme. The ambitious ₹10-lakh-crore umbrella programme for roads, Bharatmala, will subsume all existing highway projects including the flagship National Highways Development Project (NHDP), launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998.

The project will start from Gujarat and Rajasthan, move to Punjab and then cover the entire string of Himalayan states – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand – and then portions of borders of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar alongside Terai, and move to West Bengal , Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and right up to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Mizoram. Special emphasis will be given on providing connectivity to far-flung rural areas including the tribal and backward areas.

According to government officials working out the details of the scheme, the total road length to be developed as expressways under Bharatmala will be around 51,000 km. In the first phase 29,000 km will be developed with an outlay of Rs5.5 trillion. The project would need an investment of around ₹500 billion (US$7.8 billion).

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has prepared a draft Cabinet note on the Rs. 2.6 lakh crore (US$41 billion) Bharat Mala project that envisages construction of 25,000 km of roads along India’s borders, coastal areas, ports, religious and tourist places as well as over 100 district headquarters.

Phase 1 – The total length of road to be constructed under Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I is 24,800 Km new stretches along with 10,000 km remaining under NHDP.

As of 2017, 30 km/day construction is going on in highway sector. So, Phase-I may complete by 2022, compared to 19 years it took to upgrade almost same length of National Highways under NHDP.


Sagar Mala project is a strategic and customer-oriented initiative of the Government of India to modernize India’s Ports so that port-led development can be augmented and coastlines can be developed to contribute in India’s growth. It looks towards “transforming the existing Ports into modern world class Ports and integrate the development of the Ports, the Industrial clusters and hinterland and efficient evacuation systems through road, rail, inland and coastal waterways resulting in Ports becoming the drivers of economic activity in coastal areas.

The programme aims to promote port-led development in the country by harnessing India’s 7,500-km long coastline, 14,500-km of potentially navigable waterways and strategic location on key international maritime trade routes.

On 25 March 2015 Cabinet gave approval for this project to develop 12 ports of India and also 1208 Islands. The project was launched by Ministry of Shipping (the nodal ministry for this initiative) in Bangalore, Karnataka on 31 July 2015.

 A National Sagarmala Apex Committee (NSAC), composed of the Minister in charge of Shipping, with Cabinet Ministers from stakeholder Ministries and Chief Ministers / Ministers incharge of ports of maritime states as members, will provide policy direction and guidance for the initiative’s implementation, shall approve the overall National Perspective Plan (NPP) and review the progress of implementation of these plans.

36 projects have been proposed by the Andhra Pradesh government for Sagarmala. Indian coastline will be developed as Coastal Economic Regions (CER).

The Sagarmala Development Company was given the nod for incorporation by Indian Cabinet on 20th July 2016 with an initial authorized share capital of Rs 1000 Crore and subscribed share capital of Rs 90 Crore, to give a push to port-led development. The Sagarmala National Perspective Plan was released on 14-April-2016 with details on Project Plan and Implementation.

The proposed Ports under Sagarmala include six megaports  


New Port Location


Present Status


Sagar Island

West Bengal

Approval obtained for setting up Major See Port Sagar Port at Sagar Island. DPR prepared.Viability being re-examined in view of announcement of new port Tajpur Port at Tajpur by State Govt. of West Bengal.


Paradip Outer Harbour


DPR under preparation.



Tamil Nadu

Techno Economic Feasibility Report(TEFR) prepared.



Tamil Nadu

In principle approval obtained for setting up Major Port at Enayam. DPR under preparation.




Techno Economic Feasibility Report (TEFR) prepared.




DPR under preparation.


Under Sagarmala Programme, 415 projects, at an estimated investment of approximately Rs.7.98500 lakh crore (US$120 billion), have been identified across port modernization & new port development, port connectivity enhancement, port-linked industrialization and coastal community development for phase wise implementation over the period 2015 to 2035. As per the approved implementation plan of Sagarmala Programme, these projects are to be taken up by the relevant Central Ministries/Agencies and State Governments preferably through private/PPP mode. The details are as below.


S. No.

Project Theme

No. of Projects

Project Cost (Rs. Cr)


Port Modernisation




Connectivity Enhancement




Port-Linked Industrialisation




Coastal Community Development







Golden Quadrilateral

 Golden Quadrilateral is the largest highway project in India and the fifth longest in the world, started by NDA Government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is the first phase of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP), and consists of building 5,846 km (3,633 mi) four/six lane express highways at a cost of Rs.600 billion (US$9.4 billion). The project was launched in 2001 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee under the NDA government, and was completed in 2012. Although the planning for the project was completed in 1999 but the construction work officially started in 2001. Though it was estimated to be completed by 2006, it actually became operational in January 2012. The Golden Quadrilateral project included construction of new express highways, including renovation and extension of the existing highways to four or six lanes.

The Golden Quadrilateral is a highway network connecting many of the major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of India. A quadrilateral of sorts is formed by connecting Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai, and hence its name. Other metropolises also connected by the network are Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Kanpur, Pune, Surat, Nellore, Vijayawada and Vishakapatnam. It is the largest highway project completed in India. It is the fifth longest highway project in the world. The overall length of the Golden quadrilateral is 5,846km. The Golden Quadrilateral passes through 13 states of India. The Golden Quadrilateral constitutes only the national highways of the country and not state highways and rural-urban roadways. The project was estimated to cost INR600bn but was one such project which was completed at about half of the estimated costs at INR308.58bn. Benefits for the country

The GQ project is managed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) under the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the first controlled-access toll road to be built in India is a part of the GQ Project. This project came in 1999 and initiated in 2001 by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was projected to connect four metropolitan cities of India: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. The project consisted of constructing four and six-lane express highways. The project was planned to be completed by 2006 but due to delays (like land acquisition, awarding contracts, zoning challenges, and funding problems) it got completed in 2012.  

One of achievements of the previous NDA government is the 5846-km Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) highway. It is designated as one of the longest highways in the world. It is basically a network of highways that connect the four major metropolitan cities of the country in four directions – Delhi (North), Chennai (South), Kolkata (East) and Mumbai (West) – thereby forming a quadrilateral, and hence the name Golden Quadrilateral.

Major cities covered under Golden Quadrilateral highway

The Golden Quadrilateral provides efficient transportation links between major cities of India, like New Delhi; Jaipur, Udaipur, Ajmer (Rajasthan); Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar (Gujarat); Mathura, Varanasi, Agra, Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh); Mumbai and Pune (Maharashtra); Bangalore (Karnataka); Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh); Chennai (Tamil Nadu); Bhubaneswar (Orissa) Kolkata (West Bengal) etc.

The four sections of the Golden Quadrilateral

Section I: This covers National Highway 2 (NH2) from Delhi to Kolkata. Total stretch is 1454 km. States covered are Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Major cities include Delhi, Mathura, Faridabad, Agra, Allahabad, Firozabad, Kanpur and Varanasi.

Section II: This covers NH6 from Kolkata to Chennai, NH60 (Kharagpur to Balasore) and NH5 (Balasore to Chennai). Total stretch is 1684km. States include West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.

Section III: Total stretch is 1,290km. It covers parts of NH4 (Mumbai to Bangalore), NH7 (Bangalore to Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu) and NH46 (Krishnagiri to nearby Chennai). States include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Section IV: Covering parts of NH 8 (Delhi to Kishangarh), NH 79A (Ajmer bypass), NH 79 (Nasirabad to Chittaurgarh) and NH 76 (Chittaurgarh to Udaipur), the stretch is 1,419km. States include Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and New Delhi. Major cities connected are Delhi, Ajmer, Udaipur, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. Major highlights of the Golden Quadrilateral

There are many benefits of this megaproject. It provides faster transport networks between major cities and ports Provides connectivity to major agricultural, industrial, and cultural centres of India Provides smoother movement of goods and people within the country Enables industrial development and job creation in smaller towns through access to varied markets Farmers are able to transport their produce to major cities and towns for sale and export, and there is less wastage and spoils. More economic growth through construction and indirect demand for steel, cement, and other construction materials Giving an impetus to truck transport

The completed Golden Quadrilateral passes through 13 states:

1.    Andhra Pradesh – 1,014 km (630 mi)

2.    Uttar Pradesh – 756 km (470 mi)

3.    Rajasthan – 725 km (450 mi)

4.    Karnataka – 623 km (387 mi)

5.    Maharashtra – 487 km (303 mi)

6.    Gujarat – 485 km (301 mi)

7.    Odisha – 440 km (270 mi)

8.    West Bengal – 406 km (252 mi)

9.    Tamil Nadu – 342 km (213 mi)

10. Bihar – 204 km (127 mi)

11. Jharkhand – 192 km (119 mi)

12. Haryana – 152 km (94 mi)

13. Delhi – 25 km (16 mi)

Total – 5,846 km (3,633 mi)

The maga infrastructure projects are built at a great cost and lot of time and energy is involved. In such a case their maintenance requires constant monitoring and the responsibility needs to be clearly delineated. While working on such mega projects vested interests not only indulge in corruption, but also honest officers are threatened. Their security is very important. Economic feasibility, social impact assessment, environmental impact assessment, acquisition of land, compensation and rehabilitation etc. are persistent problems. One of the bad memories of murder of an honest officer Satyendra Dubey in GQ implementation still haunts. In August 2003, Jharkhand-based project director Satyendra Dubey, in a letter to the Prime Minister, outlined a list of malafide actions in a segment of a highway in Bihar. Dubey’s claims included that big contractors had inside information from NHAI officials, that the contractors for this stretch were not executing the project themselves (as stipulated in the contract) but subcontracting the work to small builders who lacked technical expertise and that no follow-up was performed after awarding advances. Dubey’s name was leaked by the PMO to the NHAI, and he was transferred against his wishes to Gaya, Bihar, where he was murdered on 27 November. The NHAI eventually admitted that Dubey’s charges were substantiated, and implemented “radical reforms” in selection and contract procedures.


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