Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

Indian Infrastructure: Turning Deficit Into Opportunity

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  **     **When you have to move a large heavy rock, what can you do? You can try with all your power to push the rock. But, will it work? No, not until you are a wrestler. Our infrastructure deficit is a similar problem. No matter how hard we are trying, we can only make little progress. But, a smart man won't push the rock. He will use a crowbar and use half the effort to get twice the result. We also need a similar innovative approach to handle this deficit. We must understand that infrastructure is not an isolated thing. It is the engine of the country's progress. Almost every single industry, every civic facility depends upon infrastructure for its progress. When the country is making such rapid progress, can we afford a hackneyed approach towards meeting infrastructure deficit? No. We must realize that the traffic's speed is controlled by the slowest lane, not by the fastest one.  

Whenever we use a product or service that is important for other important work, we value it very highly. For example, a bank carefully maintains its computers and communication mediums, without which its main business will be hampered. Similarly, infrastructure is the driver of every other sector. When we have systematic approach to maintain computers in our banks, why don’t we have a scientific approach towards infrastructure as well? I believe that we can resolve our infrastructure deficit by involving apt people and companies to do the work. I believe that there is a direct co-relation between a city’s infrastructure and its business potential. It is a two - way approach. Not only infrastructure follows progress but often it is a prerequisite for progress.

A township of some factory or a private housing colony has a clear sense of order, cleanliness and well-planned buildings. When I visited Jamshedpur (Tata Steel’s factory is there) I was surprised by the amazing cleanliness, beautiful roads and the green trees all around. My cousin told me that the city’s amenities are looked after by JUSCO, a Tata enterprise. When JUSCO can maintain Jamshedpur in such a “heart-warming” way, can it not maintain other cities? I am sure it can. We must involve corporate world and trained professionals in maintaining our cities, not by token financing of public grounds, but at much higher level. Our cities are so valuable that they can be turned into successful businesses. When you go to a restaurant, it is not only the food that attracts you; the surroundings also play a major part. Similarly, cities can be projected as restaurants that provide a great atmosphere and infrastructure to come and work. In the present situation, there is a great opportunity to move the administration of cities from hazy, incompetent municipal bodies to responsible private enterprises. This solution is not only for the big megacities, but also for the smaller cities.

Take the example of a medium-size city. One has to build roads, flyovers and drainage systems, look after established civic amenities and facilitate trade. All of this requires capital inflow – often, the biggest impediment. Private companies can bring in the money and the expertise to carry out these projects in the most professional way. When we have management experts for a relatively miniscule workforce of a company, we surely need professionals for running a city. I am not in favor of the government taking the backseat, but it should take the side-seat like a licensing authority takes when we take road tests for issuing our driving license. We sell enough cars to support roads and get enough taxes to support cities. So, the present condition is unjustifiable. Wherever, some cities can’t sustain itself at a certain stage, the government can chip in. But the objective should be to make the city a self-sustaining unit. Also, infrastructure development has to be in agreement with environment-conservation. Unplanned growth is often more hazardous than no growth at all. There are clear roles for everyone to take in this system. We only need foresight to identify the benefits and courage to modulate public opinion. When we can trust private companies to run our stock-exchanges build our important highways, airports and make goods for armed forces, why can’t we involve them in the cities?

Although, I have concentrated on cities, but the same approach holds for other units as well. I have adapted the successful BOT approach used for road-building into BORiS (Build, Operate, and Run in Sync) Sounds Nice!!

Whether we have to improve schools in villages or provide medical care in far-flung areas, we only need to devise a profitable and responsible system; people will always come up and take the challenge.

The infrastructure deficit that we are facing today needs to be tackled in a radical manner. The situation will become tougher every passing day. The floods in Mumbai, the dispute between shopkeepers and the High Court of Delhi etc. are incidents which showed how necessary disciplined and radical steps are for meeting our infrastructure deficit. An innovative approach can turn this deficit into an opportunity.

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