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Munda calls for private push
- L&T chief says Jharkhand not easy place to work in

Ranchi, Oct. 1: Chief minister Arjun Munda today accepted that lack of infrastructure was an impediment to Jharkhand’s development and pointed to public-private partnerships as the way forward, his appeal directed at an audience of senior members of India Inc, including those from L&T and ITC.

Speaking as chief guest at a CII seminar here, the chief minister declared the state would take up a mammoth time-bound project to rebuild about 2,000km of road with help from construction majors.

“I know that lack of infrastructure is an impediment to development of the state. Moreover, Jharkhand is facing many other problems. Now it is the collective responsibility to shape the state, and for that, help from professional bodies and industry representatives is needed,” said Munda, addressing the seminar titled, “Building Road: Accelerating Growth & Generating Capability”.

Later, reacting to the chief minister’s appeal, L&T chief J.P. Nayak said his company was ready to take up any project in Jharkhand, provided the state was able to decide on the nitty-gritty of public-private partnership models.

“At present, L&T has no construction project in Jharkhand, which is not an easy place to work in given its volatile condition,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the seminar. But L&T, he said, would continue to supply industrial equipment in Jharkhand to buyers like Tata Steel, SAIL’s Bokaro Steel, Lafarge among others.

Organised by Jharkhand state council of Confederation of Indian Industry, the seminar was also attended by HEC managing director G.K. Pillai — he is also chairman of the state council — ITC director Kurush Grant, Telco Construction & Equipment Limited (TELCON) MD Ranaveer Sinha, and Tata Steel vice-president (shared services) Anand Sen, among others.

“It is a challenge for us to ensure that the roads we build last,” Munda said. “Financial resources of the state do not support much investment in the road sector, but we are trying to ensure private sector participation.”

Jharkhand has a poor record of completing road projects with private investment, given its serious security concerns due to a strong Maoist presence, aggravated by a fragile political situation.

The state’s road network includes 1,844km of national highways, 1,886km of state highways and about 3,600km of district and rural roads. This means, the road construction department is responsible for maintaining 6,800km of roads, although it hasn’t received any external assistance.

The state government’s bid to strengthen its road network received a shot in the arm after the Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed to offer a $200 million loan for the long-neglected 311km stretch of the Govindpur-Sahebganj state highway that crosses through the Santhal Pargana region.

The loan amounting to about Rs 900 crore will be available till December 2014, by which time the state government needs to complete the project.

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