Fear of road assets being owned by foreigners led to reducing road project bundles: Nitin Gadkari

Fear of foreign pension and insurance funds owning assets in the country made the government reduce the bundle size of road projects being offered to investors as part of the monetization plan, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Saturday.

Gadkari, who handles the roads portfolio, said that the foreign funds have a huge quantum of capital which yields very low returns in other markets, due to which money gets deployed in the country.

“We do not want foreigners to own our assets. Hence, I reduced the bundle size to Rs 500 crore from Rs 5,000 crore so that domestic investors can participate,” Gadkari said, speaking at a conference here organised by the Marathi daily ‘Dainik Sakaal’.

The outspoken minister also said that ‘elective merit’ of a candidate is the most important aspect for any political party, recounting his days as the BJP president when tickets were given despite knowing that an inpidual is a murderer as well.

Recently back from inspecting the work on the Zojila Pass tunnel connecting the Kashmir Valley with Ladakh, Gadkari said the contractor has been asked to deliver the tunnel by 2023 as against the contracted 2026 because of no other reason but general elections of 2024.

Meanwhile, Gadkari also asked the cooperative sector to focus more on efficiency and profits, and also underlined the need for changes in laws which will help entities in the sector to deliver more.

There is a need for the cooperatives to work like corporates, and hence, “we need to have a legislation like the Companies Act to get the best out of the sector”, he said.

Entities in the cooperative sector should be allowed to easily merge with the other and there should also be a secondary market for trading shares in a cooperative, he said, explaining that the incentive of delivering higher return on capital for investors will make such entities work better.

Gadkari also exhorted the sector participants to lobby harder in New Delhi, saying success stories are not known and the perception in the corridors of power is about the sector being fraught with corruption and other issues.

Most of the officers in administration hail from the northern states, hence they are not aware of the work on this sector in states like Maharashtra, Gadkari said.

He also acknowledged that as the sector falls under the ‘concurrent’ list of the Constitution, it has to contend with the Centre, states and also the RBI in case of financial entities in the cooperative sector.

When asked about the RBI’s recent rule-making for cooperatives after getting higher control, Gadkari hinted that the cooperatives will have to themselves get stronger and bolder to represent their concerns and make sure that they are heard.

He welcomed the deal of merging the scam-affected Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank with Centrum, saying such deals are best for all stakeholders.

Directors’ credibility is the only success mantra for a cooperative institution and all efforts should be made to work on the same, he said.

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