A latest World Bank (WB) study says exemplary reforms in Gujarat’s highway sector should be replicated by Indian states to establish an “enabling framework” for creating “efficient governance”. Titled “Good Governance in Highway Sector: Learning from Gujarat”, the 60-page, yet-to-be-published report is based on the implementation of the World Bankfunded Gujarat State Highway Project (GSHP) during the 2001-07 period. The project was implemented by the state roads and buildings ((R&B) department.
Identifying private sector involvement as a crucial factor in shaping the reforms, the bank points out how the R&B department, under principal secretary SS Rathore, a technocrat, switched “from the role of provider to manager of road infrastructure”. This enabled the department to embrace a whole-of-network approach to planning and management of road network development and maintenance, and to take a more integrated approach in the budgeting and funding process, the study says.
As a result, GSHP “was implemented with a significant cost reduction (about 23%)”, even as improving “the network to meet the rapidly growing transport demand in the state”. The bank stresses that: “The GSHP had the unique distinction of no contract disputes, a rarity among highway development projects in India”, even as it set best practices in “developing and managing a very comprehensive asset management system, state-of-the-art quality assurance framework and a very comprehensive training and capacity building programme”.
Noting that the current planned road network size in Gujarat of 74,111 km is among the highest in terms of network density per sq km in India, the report says, it is also “among the best managed networks”.
Investment in new roads in Gujarat increased six times compared to the pre-reforms times, with the state paying more attention to maintenance “than any other state”. It spent $884, 15% more than the second highest spending state, Kerala. As a result, the maintenance backlog has been reduced from 10,000 km to 5,000 km, including the 1,800 km reduction spurred by the GSHP. “Gujarat is one of the first states to develop a strategic or core road network by applying the 80/20 rule, i.e. 80% of the traffic is carried by 20% of the road network,” says the report. First formulated during the GSHP, the concept was used during the development later, the bank says. However, it adds that the concept may go a long way in implementing the chief minister’s “vision” of travelling by road in the state between any two locations within six to seven hours at 80 km per hour.