WHILE the Centre moves away from PPP in the roads sector in favour of the old cost-plus works contracts, the Rajasthan government has planned a big PPP foray.
As part of the budget’s plan to build 20,000 km of state highways over the next five years — the most ambitious such project for any state — the state legislature passed the Rajasthan State Highways Bill on Friday to create an NHAI-type body in the state, but one which is more empowered.
As has been done successfully in the cases of big central projects like the Delhi and Mumbai airports and the Delhi and Hyderabad metros, the Rajasthan government plans to leverage land resources in a more focussed manner.
The Rajasthan State Highways Bill envisages allowing PPP players to build industrial estates, commercial complexes or townships in the vicinity of the highways.
While the projects will all be bid out in the same manner that NHAI does for its PPP projects, some of the money from these projects is expected to be used for the viability-gap funding —VGF refers to the shortage of funds from a project’s revenue streams and the anticipated costs.
The Rajasthan government plans to find ways to ensure the land acquisition process is shortened though compensation for land is to be guided by the provisions of the central Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013. In case the compensation fixed is not found suitable, the Rajasthan State Highways Act provides for this to be settled by an arbitrator who is to be appointed by the government.
“We will create an improved version of NHAI as the regulator will have more comprehensive functions and powers to build and operate the state highways... We will ensure better land acquisition for farmers as also toll exemptions for those living in neighbouring villages,” state PWD minister Yunus Khan said.
Since the Rajasthan State Highways Act specifies a control zone from the expressway where nothing can be built as well as strict access control — tractors cannot, for instance, enter the expressway — this means more slip roads for villages and underpasses.
In recent weeks, Rajasthan has been in the news for being the first state to liberalise its labour laws — firms with under 300 employees do not have to go the government for permission to shut down, up from 100 right now. Legislation on other labour laws like Apprentice Act