Big-ticket investment projects worth Rs 1.1 lakh crore, stuck for years for want of myriad government clearances, have finally got the green signal to start operations.
The Centre has unravelled last-mile hurdles holding up 28 such projects at a time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has identified the government’s primary task as reinvigorating confidence in the Indian economy, with domestic players having virtually abandoned fresh investments.
The clearances would come as a relief for investors in 18 power projects with a generation capacity of 15,500 mw, four highway projects worth Rs 4,400 crore, and a Rs 1,200-crore steel plant in Odisha. Further, the coal ministry has agreed to sign fuel supply agreements for all these projects by August 31. Three critical railway lines in poorly connected states such as Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Assam, with an investment outlay of over Rs 7,100 crore, have secured the requisite clearances to finish construction.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, who has led the drive, has managed to secure these clearances after intensive project-wise discussions with ministries through a special project monitoring group set up by the prime minister in June.
Infra no more a tearjerker: Govt clears big-ticket investment projects worth Rs 1.1 lakh cr This special cell was set up at the insistence of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who recognised the imperative to revive investor sentiment by getting some long held-up projects, where banks have significant exposure, off the ground. Chidambaram had said the cell would examine 215 major projects worth Rs 7 lakh crore. These 215 projects comprise a sub-set of the total 341 stalled projects amounting to over Rs 10.5 lakh crore identified by the minister.
“We have managed to facilitate the last-mile clearances pending with various departments such as the ministries of coal, home affairs and railways for 28 projects,” said a senior government official. “This shows that it is possible to fix many of the problems facing delayed projects if we apply our minds to it,” he said.
Though the government had set up a Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI) led by the prime minister to fast-track clearances for projects over Rs 1,000 crore, some of which have been delayed for decades, industry had pointed out the committee met just once a month and didn’t have the bandwidth to resolve ground-level issues holding up private sector investments. The Ajit Seth-helmed special cell is meant to supplement CCI’s efforts in cases where the problem can be involved by way of discussions between ministries. In case a policy decision is needed, CCI steps in. The special cell also acts as the CCI’s secretariat and has now been tasked with monitoring the progress of projects cleared earlier by CCI.
The special cell, steered by Anil Swarup, additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat, has set up a portal where struggling, large project developers can list out their pending projects and the clearances that are holding them up.