The economic prosperity of a geography is erected on the four pillars of: (a) quality of human capital, (b) quantum of private investment, (c) quality and extent of infrastructure, and (d) social order. Creation of infrastructure has taken precedence over the three others as the corner stone of the pyramid of prosperity in – Europe, United States, Japan and recently China.

Infrastructure has two components: (a) Physical, and (b) Social. The physical infrastructure includes: (a) communication system – roads, ports, railways, airways, telephony etc., (b) power, (c) civic infrastructure like water, sanitation etc., and (d) housing – commercial and residential. The social infrastructure includes: (a) education, (b) health and (c) welfare institutions. The absence or inadequacy of the infrastructure has the propensity to stunt, derail and/or erode the economic growth of the geography.

The modern history of the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) suggests that one time its infrastructure both physical and social was ahead of most other states in the Union of India. In fact, UP was the proud possessor of number of prestigious educational and health care institutions and (the then) engineering marvel of Canal Irrigation Systems. Unfortunately, over a period of time addition to and up-gradation of infrastructure has been on the back burner. In fact, the existing infrastructure has undergone significant degradation.

The people of UP suffer from severe shortages of power, water, schools and hospitals et el. In the absence of adequate hospitalization facilities, every year during monsoon season hundreds of children die of encephalitis – a disease caused by mosquito bites. A recent study reveals death of over 50,000 children in the last couple of years. The pitiable condition of sewage system in most of the urban habitations has turned the living into near squalor and stink. Inadequacy of rail, road and airways network is pronounced. Connectivity is derisory. Most of the tributaries of canals hardly carry water. Significant portion of canal irrigated fields have turned into torrid zones. The population explosion interalia arising out of the fear of infantile mortality and widespread illiteracy has intensified the inadequacy of infrastructure. Unfortunately, even today, the focus on building infrastructure if any, is marginal.

Infrastructure building is a capital intensive endeavour of long gestation. Hence, in most countries it has by and large been the preserve of the state. However, as the financial capability of the Governments started contracting, a new concept of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) evolved. PPP has been successfully used in many countries to bridge the gaps in government initiatives and capabilities. 

In a PPP model, the physical resources along with (sometimes) a part of the financial resources are allocated by the state. The major part of the financial resources is pooled in by the private enterprises; eventually that is also substantially funded by the public and public financial institutions like Insurance Companies, Pensions Funds and Banks etc. However, greater contribution of the Private Sector in a PPP model is in the execution – time and quality and collection of usage charges. In a PPP model the process of building infrastructure becomes market driven commercial activity. Sadly bigger among the PPP projects (though very few in number) in UP like Yamuna and Ganga expressways have been mired in controversy.

The first and foremost requirement for building the infrastructure would be to design a comprehensive plan, which should include: (a) broad assessment of the requirements, (b) planning of projects coupled with sequencing, (c) marshalling of required resources – physical, financial and human, (d) detailing of processes, (e) execution strategies, and (f) responsibility and accountability frame. The processes should clearly delineate how a project will be allocated between a state agency and private sector entity and amendment/enactment of appropriate legislation/s will be carried to facilitate award and execution of projects. The potency of the legislation/s to create an effective regulatory mechanism to build, maintain and collect user changes will be paramount. The frame of responsibility and accountability should include the rewards and recognitions (R&R) and penalties. The penalties - civil and criminal must be diligently described, complemented with the mechanism of conferment. Rigorousness of the processes to deliver R&R and penalties on the outcomes must be obvious.

It is well understood that in a vibrant democracy more so in India, the efficacy of the processes mentioned above cannot be always guaranteed. However, the challenge of democracy, can be overcome, provided the elected representatives adorn the robe of sheer patriotism and conduct themselves like the great freedom fighters whose sole aim was to annex independence from the subjugation of British yoke. The enlightened self interests whether financial and/or political were buried in the annals of history to be recovered only by the posterity. Crusader like attitude will alone help in building the infrastructure in UP. Politicking must give way to service of the people.

In effect, an ecosystem has to be created where infrastructure building will not only be promoted and facilitated but coordinated as an important process of enhancing and ensuring the economic emancipation of the people of UP. The denied happiness of the Citizens commandeers the rise of right representatives. In the next few months the task will be before the electorate to identify from the milieu of aspirants, men and women of total integrity – financial and intellectual as also incurable urge to deliver the desired and to elect them to the legislature of UP.     

(The writer is former Chairman, SEBI & LIC of India)