Fadnavis' War Room

In a 450 sq ft room ­ aptly called the War Room ­ on the seventh floor of a building in South Mumbai, a team of youngsters are furiously working on their laptops and phones. The room is buzzing with activity and is filled with screens and charts of various projects with their status reports.

This is isn't a corporate office though; it is Mantralaya, Maharashtra's headquarters, where an empowered team is working behind-the-scenes to push through some of the state's top projects such as Mumbai's 8-lane Coastal Road, the 5 metro rail projects, the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway , and a slew of irrigation projects.

But to know why the War Room was created one must understand how some of the infrastructure projects have panned out in the past.

Sample this, the Mumbai Metro-1, Versova-Ghatkopar route, was planned in 1997 but was completed in 2014 . Similarly, the foundation stone for the 5.6-km Bandra-Worli Sea link was laid in 1999, which took another 10 years to complete.

The War Room was created in 2015 after Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who heads it, made it clear to his officers that they cannot take a `business as usual approach' to projects. The War Room was set up by additional chief secretary to the CM, Praveen Pardeshi, OSD Kaustubh Dhavse and strategy associate Zoravar Gill.

The War Room is made up of people from the corporate world for an 11-month stint. Pardeshi oversees the War Room while Gill handles operations. Once a project is assigned to a War Room, it is broken down into smaller milestones. For instance, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project was divided into smaller segments ­ getting clearances from the environment ministry, getting land from various departments, arranging funds, etc.

The team breaks every big project into smaller ones, works with various government departments for project clearances and speedier approvals. Senior officials vouch for their efficiency , and in just a 2-hour War Room meeting, 20 projects are reviewed, with the team highlighting the pain points.

For instance, the 29.2-km coastal road project connecting Kandivili to Marine Lines that was stalled since 2011, finally got environmental clearance, and the state will soon invite tenders for the project.

The SEEPZ-Cuffe Parade underground Metro was as good as dead some years back, but has now got all clearances, and work is on in full swing. The War Room played a huge part to get the project back on track. Men from the War Room chased files everywhere ­ Coast Guard office, revenue department, PMO ­ to clear the way for the project.

In two years, the War Room has managed to get all the clearances and the state is now poised to issue tenders.

For the line 2 of the Dahisar-Kandivili Metro, Pardeshi invited G Mohapatra, AAI chairman, to a War Room meeting where CM himself spoke to the latter explaining why the AAI land was important for the project. Within a week of this meeting, an MOU was signed between the AAI and MMRDA.

In many cases, heads of various government departments have been present in War Room meetings, which helped speed up decision-making.

One of the reasons why the War Room has been so effective is simply because Fadnavis himself heads the initiative, and bureaucrats are always on their toes, clearing stuck files.

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