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The Parliamentary Standing Committee concerns with slow utilisation of funds under Sagarmala Project

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NEW DELHI : The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture has expressed concern about the slow utilisation of funds under the Sagarmala Project — the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. The committee report mentions that “actual expenditure is only half of the BE allocation”.

At the time of the Demands for Grants 2022-23, the Committee noted that out of the 44 projects then under development, no funds had been released for as many as 31 projects.

“The committee recommends that the Ministry should put in place a rigorous monitoring mechanism for the ongoing projects and ensure that the available resources for 2023-24 are utilised more efficiently,” it said in a report tabled earlier this week while adding that the Ministry must see to it “that execution of the projects is done within the approved costs and designated timeline.”

The report mentions that there are 151 projects worth ₹9,628 crore under Sagarmala, of which 45 projects worth ₹2,829 crore have been completed; 55 projects worth ₹3,653 crore are under implementation and 51 worth ₹3,146 crore are under development.

Under the coastal shipping and IWT (Inland Waterway Transport) pillar of Sagarmala programme, 60 projects worth ₹2,705 crore has been sanctioned for the development of coastal berths, Ro-Ro/Ro-Pax jetties, passenger jetties. Of which only 15 projects worth ₹849 crore have been completed.

“Considering that the Ministry has more than 100 projects in the pipeline, the committee feels that the allocation under Sagarmala would be insufficient for the completion of the projects under construction and tendering,” the report said adding that the committee has observed that the overall allocation of the Ministry as well as under Sagarmala have mostly been reduced at the Revised Estimates stage.

Unutilised expenditure

According to the Committee report, expenditure incurred by the Ministry during FY 2022-23 under several heads such as assistance to ship building, international maritime university, inland waterway authority of India (IWAI) projects, among others, till January 31, “is much lower than the revised estimates’ allocation”.

For instance, allocation under Indian Maritime University (IMU) was increased from ₹1 crore in budget estimates 2022-23 to ₹62.46 crore in revised estimate 2022-23; but only about 20 per cent of the amount has been utilised.

Under IWAI and Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships, the utilisation percentage is 77 per cent and 65 per cent respectively.

No expenditure has been incurred under Shipping Corporation of India.

The Ministry said that for continuation of India-Maldives shipping service for FY23, a provision of ₹25 crore was made, based on the then prevailing charter hire rates which were at higher levels. However, the shipping service was routed through Colombo, which enabled higher capacity utilisation as freighted containers were moved from Tuticorin to Colombo, and from Colombo to Male; freighted empties from Male to Tuticorin and Colombo. This resulted in better voyage results thereby savings on subsidy. In view of savings on subsidy and balance subsidy available with Shipping Corporation of India, the revised estimates (RE) was proposed to around ₹16 crore, but even this amount has remained unutlised.

“It is evident that the Ministry will end up with a significant amount of unutilised funds under these crucial heads at the end of the fiscal. The Ministry already faces budgetary shortfall in terms of its projected requirement and actual allocation made. Failure to utilise even the reduced allocation will severely stifle the pace of growth of the Indian shipping sector,” it noted.

Turnaround time

Despite improved turnaround time and higher cargo handling capacity of major ports, India’s major ports “still falls far short of international standards”, it noted.

Average turnaround time at Indian ports are down from 52.80 hours in 2014-15 to 50.01 hours in December, 2022. For container ships, the turnaround time has come down to 27.29 hours from 32.39. In comparison turnaround time in Norway is only 10 hours. “…None of India’s major ports have as yet been ranked among the top 20 in the world on any performance index. India scores low on the liner shipping bilateral connectivity index (that captures the country‟s integration level into global liner shipping networks),” the report said.

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