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Editorial | July 2012

The high cost of inefficiency, inertia and corruption

 Our front page lead story on delays in implementation of projects and the consequential time and cost overruns points to the chronic malady of inertia, inefficiency and corruption among the bureaucracy, political class and the business community. Projects not getting off the ground or getting stalled mid-way on account of various pretexts has become order of the day, so much so that delays have become the norm and time-bound implementation has become an exception. This sordid state of affairs not only speaks volumes about our pathetic levels of governance and accountability, but it is also a poor reflection on our competence and sense of responsibility.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report goes a step further and exposes the unholy goings-on between the unscrupulous bureaucracy and the political class on the one hand and the devious contractors who have been awarded state government projects on the other. In one instance, contract has been awarded and advance payment to the tune of about Rs 24 crore has been made, but the contractor has failed to start work on the project even after two years! In another, a canal was changed from concrete to earthen and back to concrete, resulting in a wasteful expenditure of over Rs 54 crore.
 
Then there is the usual plaint of projects getting bogged down on grounds of environment clearances, which also results in time and cost over-runs. According to a newspaper report, as many as 32 of the 59 public sector mega projects are running behind schedule, with the original cost of the projects being revised from Rs 5.86 lakh crore to Rs 6.80 lakh crore. Fourteen of the 32 projects witnessed time over-runs ranging from four months to 83 months and cost-overruns, with the estimated expenditure rising by over 35 per cent. Nine of the 33 mega petroleum projects experienced cost over-runs to the tune of 30 per cent, while projects of railways, road transport and highways, steel, shipping and atomic energy were running behind schedule ranging from one month to as much as 201 months. No wonder, delays in these projects have cost the PSUs a whopping Rs 94,000 crore!

If this state of affairs continues, the UPA government's resolve to provide a thrust to infrastructure development in the country will only remain a pipedream!

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