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Model Approach

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It was a rare display of bonhomie in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday when, cutting across party lines, members expressed appreciation of work being done by Nitin Gadkari as Minister of Road Transportation and National Highways. In the process of answering queries and criticism about allocations made to his ministry in the Union Budget, Gadkari provided a comprehensive glimpse of the complex process by which the network of highways is being established in the country. He gave, in particular, an idea of how funds were obtained from multiple sources and the principle behind their allocation to projects of various kinds. The emphasis, he made obvious, was getting the rich to finance their requirements through toll taxes, while the requirements of the ‘poor’ were met from the taxpayers’ money. He reminded the veteran socialists in the House that this was their much espoused ideology that upheld distribution of wealth in this manner. In fact, the considerable success of his ministry in developing highways across the country is an example of the attempt on the larger canvas of the Modi Government to leverage the unused resources of the nation in a productive and, importantly, profitable way, while at the same time working to improve the lot of the common person. An anti-business attitude is counter- productive. Development could be a process that offers robust returns on investment if planned properly. The various permutations and combinations by which the expressways are being financed is an example of this. Investors are willing to build roads, for instance, if they get to develop enterprises along the roadside, basically ‘killing’ two birds with one stone. There is no reason for the same principle not to be applied in other sectors. In fact, if private sector investment has not delivered the desired results in other areas, it is just that there hasn’t been the required application of mind. Models can be created where the government’s regulatory regime and private as well as institutional investment can coalesce into profit making institutions. The health sector, for instance, where a lot of investment has been made by private players is not exactly taking off because the regulatory regime is poor. If this was done intelligently, both, private and government hospitals would be in much better condition and providing top notch services. Ditto, for the education sector! What it requires is less hypocrisy and an open acknowledgement of the objectives, as is the case with Nitin Gadkari. Hopefully, the law- makers will have learned some important lessons from his exposition in the House.