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Better Roadways for Improved Quality of Life

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ICESays Pratyaya Amrit, Secretary, Road Construction Department andInformation & Public Relation Department, Government of Bihar.

Today there seems to be an enablingand conducive environmentfor development in Bihar.In your opinion, how have thingshave improved over the years?
There are two ways to look at this. If you askme as an officer, I personally believe that irrespectiveof the time and the government thatis in power, if an officer wants to work anddeliver, there is nothing that can stop him.Earlier also there were officers who were keenon doing good work in the state. The only differenceis that the atmosphere is conducive ina sense that receptivity and acceptability ofideas are better and high. Therefore, thingsare happening in the state if you see post 2006especially in the field of roads, health, law andorder and education. Although the officerswere also working earlier, but the enablingenvironment post 2006 has been conducivefor development.

You have been responsible forturning around the Bihar StateBridge Construction Corporation.In 2011, Government of Indiaawarded you with Prime Minis- ter’s Excellence award in PublicAdministration. Please tell usabout the work that you did in theBihar State Bridge ConstructionCorporation?
When I joined Bihar State Bridge ConstructionCorporation I had not imagined thatthis would be the turnaround story. I hadbeen given a clear mandate to reform this isa defunct and sick organisation. Can we dosomething to make it like Uttar Pradesh BridgeConstruction Corporation? And I am a studentof arts, not science. So for me it was a veryinteresting experience. This is the beauty of theIAS that there is lot of variety in work that youdo. We followed a two pronged strategy. Firstof all we completed all the pending bridgeprojects. Secondly we tried to bag many neworders to ensure that the organisation’s longterm future was secured. We ensured that therewas the right person at right position in thecompany. There was decentralisation of powerso that decisions could be taken quickly. Westarted mobile inspector software. We enabledour engineers with GPS enabled phones andvehicles were outsourced. The entire designpart was outsourced. We also introduced theconcept of supervision consultants. Lot ofthrust was given to quality, monitoring andfield visit. I must have travelled more than40,000 km in three-and-a-half years. BetweenApril 2006 and June 2008 all the pendingbridge projects were completed. We alsobagged projects of almost Rs 6000 crore andstarted working on that. From 2006 to till date,we have constructed more than 1500 bridges.

“For any engineering organisation,it’s very important to have thruston capacity building in moderntechnologies”

You are using technologies likemobile inspector or android applicationsfor monitoring variousroad construction projects acrossthe state. Please tell us about that.
This idea of mobile inspector software is veryunique and new. We were the first ones to tryit in the country. It so happened that I realisedthat the number of bridges being executed wasmore than 200 and we were working at onefourth of our strength. In any infrastructureproject, it’s very important that quality checkmust be conducted through a field visit. Oneof the complaints in initial days I used to getwas that many of the engineers were mostlystationed at headquarter and never used togo out. So we implemented the idea that anyengineer on field visit must click photos with GPRS camera and send it to the central server.To click the photograph, they had to reach thespot. This made field visits important. Oncethey used to click the photograph and send mein a customised format, we started getting thereal time report sitting in Patna or anywhereelse. This initiative also led to vast decrease incomplaints from the MLAs.

You have also created a lab in Patna.What is the role being playedby this lab?
For any engineering organisation, it’svery important to have thrust on capacitybuilding. This is one area where things arechanging on a day-to-day basis. So, we got astate-of-the-art lab and computerised everything.We sent lot of our engineers abroadand in other parts of India a part of incentivepackage. I still remember when this Mumbaibridge-Worli Sea Link was inaugurated, Isent 12 of my engineers for three days. Theywere taken around and a presentation wasgiven by Mumbai State Road DevelopmentCorporation. We have grabbed these opportunities We have in-house training system.And I think in Road Construction department,more than 100 engineers have been toUS, Canada, Singapore, Australia and otherplaces. This has hugely impacted their style ofworking. I can proudly say that many of myengineers are quite well conversant with thelatest techniques and thoughts. For instance,we are executing public private partnership(PPP) projects. In Bihar in 2004, people couldnot distinguish between pothole and road,but today we are taking about PPP and havemore than 3000 crore projects underway.

The road density in Bihar has goneup to 126.13 km from the 111-kmmark of 2008, but it is still belowthe national average of 322.77km. What are you doing to bring improvement in the road densityof the state?
We have worked consciously on this issue andhave seen improvement from 2006 to till date,but this is one thing which needs lot of fundsand thanks to the ADB funding and somesupport from World Bank for making lot ofbridges. It’s a conscious effort of the governmentthat for last five years or more, we haveconsistently got almost 20 percent budget ofthe state government. And more money meansmore and better roads and definite improvementin this figure.

Very recently the chief ministersaid “Our next target will be tomake travel time from any villagein the state to the capital Patna byroads within 6 hours,” How youare going to do it. Isn’t it hugetask?
We must understand the background of this.I am looking after the road constructiondepartment; there is another department thatlooks after rural works department. What CM meant was now there is lot of thrust on ruralroads and he has sanctioned lot of money.So, what he is telling is that once these roadsare constructed, then it would take less timeto reach from one block to another blockor Patna. With the number of many bridgeswhich we have constructed or are in the pipeline,things will definitely improve. We aregoing for Rs 500 crore work from Gopalganj toSahibhganj in Muzaffarpur. Now, it takes fourhours to reach Gopalganj from Patna, oncethis bridge is constructed, it will take you twoand-a-half hours. Similarly in Aurangabad, weare making an Rs 500 crore bridge. People useto take 9-10 hours to go to Saharsa. Now, it’staking four-and-ahalf hours. So, it’s absolutelyachievable. And I think five hours target isvery reasonable. And I think in maximum twoyears, it should be achieved.

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