Rail Analysis: Please tell us about how you got started in the Infrastructure Sector ?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: I started my career in Power Transmission and gradually gravitated towards Generation and Distribution segments in India, Africa and North America. In between, I also worked on the earliest phase of Delhi Metro project from Delhi University to Central Secretariat and Water & Waste Water Sector in India, and District Cooling System and Building Infrastructure projects in Middle East. Infrastructure has been my preferred area of operation, and I have always considered this sector to be an absolute vital for underlying the economic growth of any country.
As far as Gannon Dunkerley is concerned, the company has predominantly been a civil contracting company in Industrial, Institutional and Power space since its early years, but for the last 25 years has diversified into transportation and water infrastructure in a big way. The company is intensively looking into new areas of diversification and focussing on bringing in innovative technologies in Smart Cities, Water, Energy and Infrastructure domains through foreign collaborations.
Rail Analysis: As an Active member of FICCI, Can you please explain to our readers, the importance of FICCI in the development of the infrastructure sector in India?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: FICCI or any other trade body for that matter can play a very important role in bringing industry and government on a common platform to build confidence and exchange ideas. In that sense, FICCI is doing an excellent job by inviting members to be a part of the policy discussions with the government. A couple of weeks back, I was invited to be part of Task Force discussion on Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail project with Japanese stakeholders. Such early stage involvement is really very useful for the industry; it gives them an opportunity to contribute their inputs and help develop appropriate policy and plan that have would have little chances failure during implementation.
Rail Analysis: M/s GANNON DUNKERLEY & CO. LTD is a very experienced company and in operation since 1924, what are the major infrastructure projects done by your company in the last few decades ?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: The company has completed several iconic projects in its long existence and it would be difficult to pick up the ones that are better than others. Still the ones that immediately come to my mind are Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai, Jamnagar Refinery of Reliance Industries, Elite Hotel in Dubai, IIM Ahmedabad, to name a few. Besides, the company has executed several Roads, Bridges, ROBs/RUBs and other Railway projects on pan India basis, including a railway project in Bangladesh that is about to be completed.
Rail Analysis: As you are aware that Billions of Dollars are being invested in the Railway sector, do you think that the development of metro trains, freight corridors and development of stations, could be the game changer for the Indian economy?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: Yes, absolutely! While development of metro rail system will help decongesting the road traffic and thereby reducing the environment pollution, the unlocking of land potential around the stations and along the metro corridor through commercialization will help the economy to grow. However, the biggest game changers of all will be the development of freight corridors, particularly the golden quadrilateral along with its diagonals, and the industrial clusters that will be developed along the route. The small and big towns lying enroute will both be benefited by an upsurge in industrial & commercial activities and creation of new employment opportunities for youths and women. Improved inter connectivity with ports and inland waterways will help manufacturers and exporters to transport their products cheaply, safely and more efficiently.
Rail Analysis: You yourself have more than 30 years of experience in multiple sectors of development all over the world, do you see India becoming the third largest economy by the year 2030?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: It will be difficult even for a learned economist to predict where exactly we will be in 12 –13 years from now. We are already third largest economic power in the world in terms of Power Purchase Parity and 7th largest in terms of Nominal value. The world is fast changing and new geo-political equations driven by protective economic agendas are taking roots. Reducing reliance over hydrocarbon to meet energy requirement, finding newer mode of transport to reduce carbon emission, and innovations in medical research will be the new drivers of growth in future. Unfortunately, in all these areas we certainly lag the developed world, which will leverage its position and set ground rules for economic growth for developing nations. I think we need to focus more on our model of growth that will meet our requirement on sustainable basis in the years to come.
Rail Analysis: What are your views and suggestions to improve the PPP system for Railway projects, so that many stake holders participate in the new projects?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: PPP is a delicate game of risk allocation between the government and the private developer. How best the government can de-risk the projects for private entrepreneur is fundamental to attract private investment. It is probably the best tool to fund projects provided the governments do not become too conservative in allocating risks to the developers, who in turn don’t become too liberal in seeking undue concessions from the government. It is encouraging to note that more equitable Model Concession Agreements are being developed and favourable financing terms like Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) are being offered by Ministry of Roads Transport & Highway. Railways should take advantage of the experience of the road sector and offer projects, both brownfield and greenfield, for private participation. Even areas like Operation & Maintenance of OHE, telecommunication links, tracks etc can be off loaded to private sector.
Rail Analysis: In spite of solar energy awareness and the upcoming thermal plants, the power is still a problem and by when do you feel, We would be energy sufficient?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: Though we may claim to be an energy surplus in in 2017, it shouldn’t be interpreted as being surplus after meeting all the power requirements of all our people.
“Today we are a power surplus nation only because the current energy consumption demand is low.”
Nearly 300 million people still remain unconnected with grid and the farmers are getting only 4 or 5 hours of supply a day. I think production of power is not the problem with the government; the challenge lies in providing last mile connectivity to tribal and rural house holds in remote locations. Probably mini / micro-grid with localised production using renewable energies is the answer for these communities. Though the things are looking positive and definitely improving, the challenge in hand is big and 24X7 power supply to all looks at least 10 years away to me.
Rail Analysis: How will the upgradation and redevelopment of proposed 400 stations all across India, change the platform experience of the commuters?
Mr. Sushil KUMAR: Station redevelopment is a double-edge sword; make it developer friendly, you hit the passengers, and do it otherwise; the developer may not find his investment viable. The government will have to intervene to draw a fine line and make it mandatory for free provision of certain essential services and put a cap on other non-essential services. Globally, platform experience on major cities around the world is not much different than what you may feel at the international airports; how much we will be able to meet those standard, only time will tell. But I am quite hopeful that in Indian context, the experience will be quite pleasant for a common traveller.
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