Infrastructure Conference by ASSOCHAM concludes, highlighting need for reforms & competency-based approach in sector

The Annual Flagship Infrastructure Conference cum Awards
The Annual Flagship Infrastructure Conference cum Awards organized by ASSOCHAM concluded, shedding light on the need for reforms and a competency-based approach in the infrastructure sector.

The infrastructure sector plays a crucial role in India's development. It is imperative that we change perceptions and adapt to the circumstances and requirements. To do so, a holistic understanding of the financial and technical aspects is needed. Currently, there is a problem where individuals working in the hydro sector are rejected in the road sector, and those working in the road sector face rejection in the Railways sector. This issue needs to be addressed.

The chief guest at the event, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Hon'ble Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, emphasized the importance of providing opportunities to those with the capacity and experience to deliver quality work in the infrastructure sector. He stated that work allocation should be based on competency, and the practice of issuing tenders merely for show after departmental and area-wise decisions have already been made must come to an end. Previous work experience should be given priority when awarding contracts, and there should be less emphasis on financial and technical criteria. Shri Gadkari expressed his appreciation for industry bodies like ASSOCHAM and their meaningful suggestions and advice, seeking their continued support in India's journey of economic development.

Shri Ajay Singh, President of ASSOCHAM, acknowledged the dynamic leadership and persistent follow-up of the Hon'ble Union Minister, which has led to the high rate of development witnessed recently. He highlighted that sustainable aviation fuel was used for a flight from Dehradun to Delhi at the insistence of the Union Minister, and ASSOCHAM is working with him to ensure that every single airplane in the country will eventually operate on plant-based sustainable aviation fuel, including fuel produced through waste material recycling.

The Annual Flagship Infrastructure Conference cum Awards

Recognizing the role of infrastructure, including roads, highways, and tunnels, in the economic development of the country, the government has increased the capital investment outlay for the third consecutive year by 33%, amounting to Rs. 10 lakh crores (3.3% of GDP). India possesses the second-largest road network globally, spanning 63.72 lakh kilometers, including National Highways, Expressways, State Highways, Major District Roads, other District Roads, and Village Roads. The National Highways, with a total length of 1,40,995 kilometers, serve as the arterial network of the country.

The conference served as a platform for key industry players to discuss pertinent topics and chart the way forward. Discussions included Underground Construction and Tunnelling Section, associated issues such as risk-sharing matrix, modification in model contract agreement, evaluation criteria for consulting contracts, penalty charges on consulting companies, standardization of project parameters (Cross Section elements), institutional strengthening measures like establishing a Central Repository of Tunnel Documents, cost economization, Make in India, digitalization, and operational cost refinement. A framework suggestion based on these discussions will be prepared and submitted to relevant authorities for consideration.

The conference also emphasized the importance of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) investments in road and highways, safety audits, alignment of Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) and Toll-Operate-Transfer (TOT) target traffic clauses, calculations of Initial Estimated Concession Value (IECV), monetizing Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) data for public benefit, disinvestment approval, and bidding of brownfield projects under BOT. Additionally, discussions covered bid information disclosure, meticulous tender document preparation, quality and Cost-Based Selection (QCBS), the use of Flyash, and GST reimbursement in Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) projects.
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