Given how investment-starved the country is, and given how the implementing agency has already done all the detailed engineering work, you’d think the government would be doing its best to push the R40,000 crore exhibition centre-cum-air cargo complex at Dwarka near the capital’s international airport. But, as our lead story points out, the project remains stuck in the usual bureaucratic labyrinth most projects have to deal with. The difference with Dwarka, and that’s why we have it as our lead story, is that the project’s problems are quite distinct from those affecting other projects. For one, land acquisition is not a problem, in the sense, the government already has the land, it just needs to be transferred from one arm of the government, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to another, the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC)—the DMICDC, whose ex-officio chairman is the industry secretary, has been structured in such a way that it retains the flexibility of private firm.
What is amazing is that, despite this, the project is stuck in a turf battle as to who will get to construct the 2 million square feet of exhibition halls, the 6,000-seat convention centre, the 3,500 hotel rooms … While DDA thinks it can do the job, others in the government feel the job is better done by DMICDC which is trying to bring a totally new approach to urban planning and execution and has engaged well-known global consultants like AECOM which has developed cities like Songdo in China and the Shatui area in Hong Kong, and CH2M HILL which was in charge of the London Olympics project. It also helps that DMICDC has generous Japanese funding which, after taking into account the cost of hedging, is perhaps the lowest cost of infrastructure funding in the country—DMICDC’s mandate primarily envisages the development of 24 cities over 5,500 sq km, 7 of which are to be set up in Phase 1 by 2018 at a cost of R3,25,000 crore.
What is noteworthy about the DDA-DMICDC story is that, while DDA is well within the rights to want to try and retain the land, the urban development minister to whom it reports has directed it to transfer the land. So has the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, who is the ex-officio chairman of DDA. Various meetings have been held in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Principal Secretary has also directed that