Exclusive | ‘Fuel price hike will not hurt middle-class,’ says Nitin Gadkari


Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways and Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, spoke to Anisha Dutta on the centre’s proposal to hike fuel prices and provide huge tax rebates on electric vehicles in the union budget 2019-20. Edited excerpts:

Don’t you think the move to increase Special Additional Excise duty and Road and Infrastructure Cess each by one rupee a litre on petrol and diesel will pinch the middle class?

No it won’t. Actually the prices in the international markets for oil have reduced and this additional Rs 2 will get accommodated in that. The excise duty and the increase in the road cess will keep current rates the same; only the price which was supposed to reduce won’t. It will be compensated by (lower) international prices and this money will contribute in a big way towards infrastructure development and aid state governments in their budget.

There will be a lot of revenue gain for the country and rupee will be at an advantage, so it will not have any negative effect . Infrastructure has been given the highest priority in the budget by the finance minister. Our department’s budget was about Rs 78,000 core in the previous budget and now has gone above Rs 83,000 crore.

There has been an aggressive effort to push electric vehicles by the centre in the union budget by reducing GST and providing a tax rebate. Do you think the it is feasible given than the automobile industry had criticized the proposal by Niti Aayog to convert all two wheelers and three wheelers to EVs by 2023?

When I had imposed BS VI emission norms even then the automobile industry wasn’t happy and that also turned out to be very successful. That is how it is done, to teach someone how to swim you have to throw them in the water.

The pace at which we are pushing for electric vehicles transition is 100% normal and the automobile industry has all the potential and capability to do it. It is a gradual process and I am sure we will succeed. We want to create electric highways with electric buses and trucks plying on the road.

As the transport minister, I have been saying we need to develop a cost effective, pollution free and indigenous transport system. And I am happy that to reduce our import bill and pollution, GST has been reduced to 5% for electric vehicles whether they are three wheelers, four wheelers or two wheelers.

It is a huge thing and will help us become leaders in EV manufacturing. I have been saying that our automobile industry which today is valued at Rs 2.5 lakh core is one of the world leaders in manufacturing; all big brands come to India to manufacture. I am confident our industry will become a manufacturing hub even in the EV segment and we give tough competition to the world market in terms of quality and cost.

MSMEs have suddenly become a key focus areas for the Centre, especially in terms of job creation. You have said that you aim to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP from 29% at present to 50%. How do you plan to do that?

About 110 million jobs have been created in the sector so far. In the coming five years, we aim to create 50 million more jobs.

For this, first we need technology, research and skill development and we aim to open about 100 centres for the same. We will also allow private industry and give incentives for setting up skill training, research and technology centres.

I will give an example of medical devices, where we are about to open 10 centres for manufacturing medical devices, instruments ranging from stents to MRI machines . The cost of an MRI machine is Rs 4.5 core we will make it for about Rs 10 lakh. We import them from other countries like Germany. If we create medical devices here about Rs 50,000 crore of our import bill will reduce.

We have made a list of all goods we are importing and we have drafted a policy on import substitutes in which we aim to reduce our import dependence and increase exports. Even for khadi we are opening 100 clusters through which we will export khadi clothes all across the world. We also plan to open an online marketplace like Alibaba and Amazon, my ministry is working on that.

National Highway development has also been a key priority for the government. The union budget also mentions the creation of a national highway grid; what is the target of road construction this year?

We have identified 22 greenfield express highways for linking as a national grid network of highways. The pace of road construction has come up to 38km per day from 12km per day in the previous government’s regime. We will take it to about 40km per day this year.

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First Published:
Jul 06, 2019 07:11 IST

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