India’s infrastructure – airports, ports, roads, water, mass public transportation in cities, power, telecom — needs a dramatic overhaul. This is the basic platform to build upon, and India has not it right in each of the areas. Without proper infrastructure, it is very difficult to even start thinking of tomorrow’s India.
The main problem has been lack of planning and funds, compounded by corruption in the few places that some infrastructure has got built. For example, only recently have roads in Mumbai been getting better – in the form of concretisation, and flyovers. Earlier, the monsoon season would ensure a total mess of the roads and contracts out for rebuilding them – every year!
There needs to be proper planning to put in place the right infrastructure. Infrastructure is not something which can be created overnight, and the price on has to pay for half-baked thinking is extremely high. It will take at least 10 years to build it all out. There needs to be a vision for the world of tomorrow before the process begins.
The solution lies in privatisation. The leading Indian business houses have great huge industrial empires and corporate complexes – their strength lies in project management and execution. India needs to create clear, transparent policies and then get the government out of the action, with incentives for completing projects ahead of schedule. Even international companies should be allowed in to participate in this process.
If one looks at the way telecom had been handled in India, it offers little hope for the future. Short-term and political interests have been put ahead of what is good for the country in the past few years. A similar situation has taken place in power. Trying to appease every type of interest will not get India too far. Policies should be made and stuck to; policies need to be in the interests of the country and not those in power.
The starting point should be India’s airports. This is the first (and last) impression of India for any visitor. Airports need to be thought of us more than just places where flights land and take-off. There are excellent examples ahead of us – Singapore, Hong Kong, to name a couple. Let us begin by making at least one Indian airport world-class. Once tourists start coming in, so will the corporate investments.
There will undoubtedly be pain in the near-term. But that is the price one will have to pay if a better India needs to be built. Without the infrastructure platform, little else will make a difference. The time for bit-solutions is over; what is needed is a rapid, dramatic overhaul.