Infrastructure services remain a key bottleneck to rapid and sustained growth of our
economy. We have made substantial progress in encouraging private infrastructure service
providers and in establishing independent regulatory frameworks in most infrastructure
sectors. We have also sought to give greater operational and commercial autonomy to
existing public entities in these sectors. We will be moving ahead with programmes for
corporatisation of public sector service providers in the areas of telecommunications,
ports and airports during the course of the coming year.
49. The Prime Minister has announced a major initiative for road development, the National Highways Development Project (NHDP). The cost of the project is estimated at around Rs.54,000 crore. In my earlier budgets, I had announced the levy of cess of one rupee per litre on petrol and diesel and a substantial part of this is expected to be available for funding the NHDP. To further augment resources, for commercially viable components of this project, I shall have something more to say in Part B of my speech.
50. The plan outlay for the Central PSUs in the power sector has been increased from Rs.7,626 crore to Rs.9,194 crore. Increased budgetary support has been provided for the Tehri Hydro and the Nathpa Jakhari Hydro projects so that both these projects can be commissioned by March 2002. For commissioning of high priority projects by SEBs/State generating companies, a provision of Rs.300 crore has also been made for subsidizing interest on loans from Power Finance Corporation.
51. In order to give a fillip to the reform process in the power sector and for undertaking investments on renovation and modernisation of old and inefficient plants and for strengthening the distribution system, a new scheme for providing assistance to State utilities will be introduced. Under this scheme, additional Central Plan assistance of Rs.1,000 crore will be provided to State and Union Territory Governments.
52. The State Electricity Boards have large overdues to the Central Sector Power and Coal utilities. A Scheme for securitisation of these dues with the support of Central Government has been finalized to assist the SEBs to clear these dues. Central Government support will be linked to reforms in the operation of SEBs.
53. Honble members are aware that the Sethu Samudram Ship Canal Project has the potential of providing a shorter route between the East and West Coast Ports. I am glad to inform that Government have approved the undertaking of a detailed feasibility study and environmental impact assessment of the project at a total cost of Rs.4.8 crore. I have made necessary provision for this in the budget.