Man Mohan Singh has completed three years as Prime Minister of this most populous democracy of the world. Many are trying to grade the performance of this great economist as the head of the government. Expectations were more because of his performance in his last inning as Finance Minister with late Narshimha Rao when he initiated the reform process of Indian economy rolling in 1991. Why has he failed to make a great impact this time? What could have he done with all constraints of his limitations? At least there are some areas where he could have brought about the change with certain administrative reforms? One such area is the removal of procedural speed breakers that make the transportation even on the world-class roads built in last few years slow making the consumables for the most of the population pretty costly.
India ranks globally second in road networks with over 3.5 million kilometres after US. And in last few years, billions have gone in improving its quality including the 6000 km long GQ and in other NHDP projects.
The road transporters carry 70% of the freight traffic. New improved and widened NHDP roads including GQ and other highways would have speeded up the transportation cutting the travel time drastically. However, it has not happened. On one hand, the new roads continue to pass through crowed cities and villages. Bypasses were created and after some years of encroachment even a bypass of the bypass became necessary because of the traffic jams. On the other hand the problem gets further amplified at the toll nakas and “nullifies the gains from fuel efficiency and reduction in travel time due to new roads.”
As reported, for many a logistics companies the toll cost per kilometer has gone up. For example, for one company it went to 90 paises from 10 paises in the last three years.
According to Transport Corporation of India (TCI), “Toll costs have increased operating costs by 5-10%”. Toll costs used be Rs 1400 per round trip on the Delhi-Hyderabad route a few years ago. Today, it is Rs 3,400 for a one-way trip.
Why can’t an integrated system of toll payments, as suggested by the transporters, that can solve the problem, be put in place? And I am sure this one thing that Man Mohan could have got done. Here is a study that appeared in Times of India:
A study of a truck’s journey from Kolkata to Mumbai on NH 6 carrying a 9 tonnes of cargo is revealing. The truck took 8 days averaging speed of 11 kms per hour to cover 2150 kms, as it wasted 32 hours in just waiting at toll booths (1,940 minutes) and border posts (840 minutes).
After completing the loading at 2pm, it could have departed only after 10pm when ‘no entry’ hours get lifted, but the traffic jam at the city’s exit point made it leave only at 4am. The truck reached WB-Jharkhand border at 6pm, but had to halt, as night clearance was not allowed. It took 2 hours for clearance on WB-Jharkhand and Jharkhand-Orissa borders and Nagpur Naka, and 4 hours at Orissa-Chhatisgarh border. When it reached Mumbai at night, and called octrai agents, it waited all night for processing. Can’t the delays of the journey be reduced or eliminated to attain the global benchmark? An Indian truck manages to log just 7,500 kms every month as against 17,500 kms in USA.
Can’t Man Mohan Singh’s government find a solution in a month’s time or at least during the time left before his term ends? This is one thing that can benefit the farmers whom he wants to help. Fresh vegetables and fruits can reach the consumers faster. This can cut down the inflation. This can cut down the wastage.
Is it not one way the country should grade its economist Prime Minister?