‘I am opposed to driverless vehicles...will not permit them’

Mamuni Das March 14 | Updated on March 14, 2019 Published on March 14, 2019

Nitin Jairam Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Shipping, Ganga Rejuvenation and Water Resources, has been an exception in the constellation of BJP Cabinet ministers because of the adulation he has received from all quarters, including the Opposition. In an interview with the BusinessLine, the former BJP President, known to be a “doer”, said that he believes people will “stamp” (vote for) the BJP-led government for the next five years based on the work done and not based on image or perception. Excerpts:

Did you achieve what you set out to do?

Our country did not have expressways. Now, there is the Delhi-Meerut expressway and the Dhaula Kuan traffic bottlenecks are being removed; and we have started work on the Delhi-Mumbai expressway. We are helping the Delhi government in 13 projects, worth ₹50,000 crore. I feel 90 per cent of the goals have been achieved, but it is more important for you all (the people) to certify this.

In the transport ecosystem, cab aggregators and self-driven cars are said to be the future. As are alternative fuel vehicles. Is India ready to experiment with such systems in pockets?

I am opposed to self-driven or driverless vehicles. We will not permit (them). I feel public transport on electricity is our priority, so that people do not use their cars.

Wapcos, a government co pany, has tied up with Doppelmayr, an Austrian firm. We are getting the technology for skybuses — a double-decker vehicle system, which has a capital cost of ₹50 crore per kilometre. Its cost is lower than Metro, and its capacity (of carrying people) is higher than the Metro rail.

By increasing use of waterways, through coastal transport and using biofuel in aviation, we have saved ₹30,000 crore in import cost (fuel cost). We got the Transport for London and World Bank teams to interact with several State road transport units and explained to them how services can be provided using private operators.

In the next few years, I believe we will see more public transport options that are air-conditioned and use materials, including fuel, that are not imported. This will also make them cheaper.

If you had got 10 years instead of five [in office], would your outlook or plan have been different?

Well, we are going to get 10 years. Because, our government will, for sure, get the benefit of good work done in five years.

But there is usually a pressure to show your performance in five years, particularly for long gestation infrastructure projects. I don’t take any pressure, nor do I have a PR. I don’t market. I believe in my work. In the early days, I was not talking of electric transport. Now, I do. I speak of electric highways.

A cable between Delhi and Mumbai that will allow trucks — of 40 tonnes — to ply. I had seen that in Sweden, I haven’t been able to implement the project here yet. But, I do have the vision.

Even opposition parties recognise our good work. Chidamabaramji has said roads and Ganga (projects) have seen good work.

The day I was responding to some queries in Parliament, all Opposition parties lauded (my efforts). I believe politics is a means to bring about socio-economic reforms. Our country should move ahead and be a super-economic power. Whosoever comes, the country should progress.

If the BJP comes back to power, will it look different from what it has been?

Hum jaise hai waise hi hain. Aur jaise hain waise hi rahenge. (We are how we are. And we will continue to be how have been).

Our politics is not based on communalism, caste or dynasty, and doesn’t discriminate based on lines of caste, geography, gender or language. We are a nationalist party that believes in socio-economic reality.

We are against terrorists and parties supporting terrorism, not against mazhab or religion. Those who are not comfortable with us want to confuse people. Unfortunately, at times there are talks about ground reality versus perception. Those who watch us closely will not have any confusion.

Do you think (BJP) will behave differently if it comes back to power, based on some lessons that it has learnt.

The talk of lessons is wrong. You make any bhagwe kapde wala ( orange robe wearing) person sit on TV, and tear off our Bill. If somebody does any anything against cow, you put our name. We have criticised all such acts at different times, and our vichardhara (thought process) is very clear.

What will be the future of SRTUs that are in bad shape financially?

SRTUs in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra are fine. In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, they are almost finished economically. I have shared the London Transport Model. Costs will be lowered, people will roam in AC buses, with cheaper ticket prices.

I want to start buses using biofuel from Ludhiana, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kanpur – point to point. We have launched broad gauge metro from Nagpur-connecting Wardha-to-Gondiya-to-Nartek. Its cost is only Rs five crore per kilometer, instead of Rs 350 crore for metro. In these broad gauge metros, people will travel in AC trains. and travel point to point.

What’s the nature of your discussions with people from other parties.

I am friendly by nature. People across political parties approach me. If we can do something, or help in some way-I say, yes, we can do this. Otherwise, I say sorry, I cannot. Bahasbaazi se kuchh nahin hota.

Published on March 14, 2019
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