We are fully confident to meet and exceed this year’s asset monetization target: Amitabh Kant

Niti Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant confident of achieving target of raising Rs 88,000 crore from asset monetization this exercise. In an interview with TOI’s Surojit Gupta and Sidhartha, Kant details the strategy for transitioning to electric mobility and the need for ministries to push capital spending. Excerpts:
One of the key themes of the budget is electric mobility. What are the next steps on this?
A comprehensive support system, which encompasses different action areas of the electric vehicle ecosystem – manufacturing, demand creation, regulatory framework, specifications and standards, charging infrastructure, research and development, all have been supported in part of the National Mission for Transformative Mobility, which is hosted at NITI Aayog.
We have witnessed an overwhelming response to the National Advanced Cell Chemistry Battery Storage Program to achieve 50 GigaWatts manufacturing capacity. We received responses from 10 bidders for 130 GW – this far exceeds our expectations. Secondly, the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) scheme for the automotive and automotive components industry is geared towards electric vehicles and will bring in new investments of over INR 43,000 crore. This PLI also received an overwhelming response. We will facilitate the transition of industries to electric vehicles and new technologies.
More than 27 states have advanced in formulating state policies on electric vehicles and 18 states have notified these policies. In order to create a support system, nine ITIs have devised centers and programs on clean and sustainable mobility solutions. The FAME program has been completely restructured to reduce the initial cost of two-wheelers, three-wheelers and electric buses.
We have now made two-wheelers and three-wheelers cheaper than combustion engine vehicles. Under the FAME scheme, 5 lakh EVs have been supported so far. We also launched a big challenge for 5,585 electric buses including 135 double-decker buses, which some states wanted. This is the largest global tender for electric buses in the world. 2,877 chargers in 68 cities in 25 states/UT and new approval for 1,576 EV charging stations on 16 highways and 9 interstates was granted under the FAME program.
In addition to this, oil companies are installing 2,200 integrated fast charging stations at their points of sale. We are committed to having a network of charging stations in all major cities and highways. We have also developed 12 charging standards. We will propose battery exchange standards and they will be finalized within the next 60 days. NITI Aayog will publish the national battery exchange policy within the next three months. We are determined to give impetus to clean mobility in India
What are the key elements of this battery exchange policy?
Battery Swap allows you to swap a discharged battery with a charged battery, to continue your journey. This also allows the battery and the vehicle to be sold separately. In fact, it can reduce vehicle cost by 40%, as one of our startups, Bounce, did. Thus, the battery becomes a separate entity that can be constantly charged and put on the vehicle.
These batteries will be interoperable and have fast charging. The overall objective is to reduce the cost of the vehicle, while reducing delays due to battery charging.
What is the investment we envisage for the exchange of batteries?
In India, it is our young start-ups that have already disrupted the EV ecosystem, forcing established players to also take the EV route. If these players did not do this, they would be unable to maintain their market share. It is not the investment in the battery swap that is important, but the total investment in the EV ecosystem that is crucial.
This EV ecosystem involves investments in manufacturing, storing and charging batteries. The shift from combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles is inevitable as battery prices drop. Battery swapping will be a catalyst and facilitator, providing the much-needed impetus for further adoption.
When do you think EVs will be around 10-15% of vehicles in India?
Our objective should be to electrify at least 30% of the market by 2030. Our objective is that from 2025, given the fall in prices in India, all two and three wheelers sold will be electric.
How important is the announcement in the budget to improve logistics? How will it work?
Logistics is the backbone for the realization of the Indian government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Today, it is necessary to interconnect all actors in the supply chain and the Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP) aims to achieve this. In ULIP, 24 logistics systems from 6 ministries and departments were mapped and integrated through 78 application programming interfaces (APIs) covering 1,454 domains. The NICDC Logistics Data Bank (LDB) project was used to develop ULIP.
It is in line with Prime Minister Gati Shakti, who aims to break down individual silos, promote integration between all ministries and create a one-stop shop. It will therefore cross railways, roads, airways, ports and waterways. ULIP will be a game changer for logistics in India and make India globally competitive.
The ULIP program will be used by government, the private sector, service providers and industry bodies. It will be an open and secure delivery platform and there will be interoperability, scalability, security and accountability for data exchange. A private sector company will then be able to clearly determine which mode of transit to choose, the fastest and the cheapest. It also provides the shipping time of their goods.
All players in the value chain will compete with each other to drive down costs. This will be one of the innovative initiatives to reduce the cost of logistics in India. There will be unified documentation and all data will be available in real time. It will be like UPI for logistics.
PLI has been expanded to include the manufacture of solar cells and modules. How will this help?
When the PLI was announced by the Prime Minister, the aim was to put manufacturing incentives front and center to drive India’s growth and create jobs. We have limited ourselves to 14 sectors and we have a total spend of INR 1.97 lakh crore. We expect it to lead to $520 billion in total production improvement in India. The program is for a defined period of 5 years from the time of investment.
All the programs that have been launched have received a very positive response from the private sector. These are all nascent growth areas for India. When writing the PLI program, the direction from the Prime Minister was that we needed to look at high growth areas and so we chose areas where Indian companies can become global champions. These are areas where the demand will grow in India and globally. We have also taken over job-creating sectors such as textiles and agri-food.
The budget focuses on a massive increase in capital spending. How do you see the implementation?
India can have sustained growth over a long period and can only grow at high rates with good quality infrastructure, which requires capital expenditure.
This is a very progressive policy pursued by FM in the budget. She actually challenged all of us in the public service to make sure that we’re able to structure projects quickly, we’re able to get land, we’re able to get all the approvals and we are able to obtain environmental authorizations, to be able to quickly launch projects in the field. That means we need to deploy projects, and we need to deploy projects quickly.
All departments will have to play a key role and agencies like NHAI will play a major role. States that have received INR1 Lakh Crore will also have to play a very critical role. We will soon have interaction with all state governments and infrastructure departments to drive both infrastructure development and state government asset monetization programs.
The private sector will have to play a crucial role in creating good quality infrastructure.
Do you think a tax cut would have helped consumption?
I am convinced that there must be predictability and consistency of policies over a long period. Last year the government cut corporate taxes sharply and the focus was on government capital spending. This objective is there so that when the government spends, it attracts private sector investment and that stimulates growth. If we continue to tinker with direct tax policy every year through the budget, it will not be good for the country. We don’t need to change our policies. We also need income over a long period to ensure the growth and expansion of the country. I am convinced that companies should start spending and accelerate the pace of spending in India. Once this happens and growth continues on a sustained basis, further direct tax reforms can be considered.
How has asset monetization progressed after last year’s announcement?
Asset monetization is undertaken as a “whole of government” initiative across various sectors of the economy. The indicative value of core sector assets proposed for monetization is INR 6 Lakh Crore for the financial years 2022 to 2025. This includes assets from sectors such as railways, roads, highways, power generation electricity, coal, mining, transmission, warehouses and hospitality, alongside others.
The target for this year till March 31 is INR 88,000 crore for various ministries. I can assure you that we are fully confident of reaching this objective and exceeding it. Each ministry worked very sincerely and roads, electricity, coal, mines, town gas distribution worked well. We are very confident that we will fully achieve our goal. In the coming years, you will soon see a lot of action to bring efficiency through new models such as InViTs, REITS and TOT proposals. We need to maintain this on a regular basis as operation and maintenance by the private sector will bring greater efficiency and improve overall productivity.

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