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Magic machines for Indian roads

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You would be excused if you thought this editorial was about the Nano after reading the above header. The media has been so obsessed with the launch of the Nano that it wouldn’t be fair to blame the readers.

Let me admit that we too are equally excited about the ‘People’s Car’ and welcome it whole heartedly. Its arrival has once again hoisted the flag of Indian frugal engineering.

Now for the impact in the context of our industry. I have two simple questions. One, have we considered the impact the huge number of new cars will have on our roads? Two, will somebody from the construction industry show the courage to emulate Mr Tata and introduce ‘People’s Home’? Let’s not talk about the existing affordable housing schemes.

They either compromise on the quality, are too few in numbers or aren’t inexpensive enough to deserve the tag of affordability. Construction Week welcomes the Nano but it is far more eager to see truly affordable houses for the millions of Indians.

Analysts are hoping that the Nano car will put some life back into the Indian economy. We believe, truly affordable housing will transform the economic system. What is required is an ability to leverage on this basic necessity and the will power to take this bold step. However, equally critical (perhaps more) is the support from the government.

No doubts about the ability. From whatever little knowledge I possess about this industry, I can confidently say that we have this ability. The will power aspect too isn’t lacking as the industry today realises that the bigger business chunk lies at the bottom of the pyramid. What’s lacking is an orchestrated approach.

That will come only if we have a stable government that’s willing to support this cause. Well, we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that the people use their fingers to elect the right representatives.

Coming back to the header of this editorial (I told you, it isn’t about the Nano). It’s actually related to the first simple question asked in the context of the Nano. It’s related to our roads.

The Indian road building equipment sector’s contribution to road development cannot be questioned. If there has been delay in the execution of new roads and inefficiency in maintenance of existing roads then it is not because of the lack of right equipment. On the contrary, the equipment companies are leaving no stone unturned (literally!) to provide the best.

Our cover story acknowledges their efforts.

Our concern is about the way our road projects are treated. At the ‘India Infrastructure Summit ‘09’, Dr Kirit Parikh, member, Planning Commission, noted that 40% of the 60 road projects put up for competitive bidding received no bids. The key issues, as pointed out by Dr Parikh continue to be expensive finance and high risk perception. We need to address these issues on a priority basis.

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