New Delhi: In what can be touted as a step towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ – the call given by PM Narendra Modi for a self-dependent India – the country will no longer be a part of the joint ventures with Chinese companies involved in the highway projects. This was announced by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday amid the standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari

Gadakri also said the government would ensure that Chinese investors were not entertained in various sectors like Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

The move comes a day after the government banned 59 popular mobile apps originating from China, citing security issues, though it is being seen as a sign of protest against Chinese intrusion into Indian territory in Ladakh that led to the death of 20 Indian Army personnel last month.

“We will not give permission to joint ventures that have Chinese partners for road construction. We have taken a firm stand that if they (Chinese companies) come via joint venture in our country, we will not allow it,” Gadkari told in an interview.

The Road Transport, Highways and MSME minister said a policy would be out soon banning Chinese firms and relaxing norms for Indian companies to expand their eligibility criteria for participation in highway projects.

“We have taken a decision to relax norms for our companies to ensure that they qualify in bidding in large projects. I have directed the Highways Secretary (Giridhar Aramane) and NHAI Chairman (SS Sandhu) to hold a meeting for relaxing technical and financial norms so that our companies can qualify to work,” he said.

Elaborating on the decision, Gadkari said if a contractor can qualify for a small project, he can also qualify for a large project. “Construction norms are not good so I have asked to change it. We are changing it so that we can encourage Indian companies,” he added.

According to him, qualification norms for projects were being rationalised to ensure Indian companies did not require to enter into pacts with foreign partners to grab projects.

“Even if we have to go for foreign joint venture in the areas of technology, consultancy or design, we will not allow Chinese,” the minister said.

About the MSME sector, Gadkari said the effort is to enhance the capacity of local production but at the same time foreign investment was being promoted.

However, he made it clear that despite decision to encourage foreign investment, Chinese investors would not be allowed.

On stopping of consignments from China at Indian ports, the minister said there is “no arbitrary stopping of goods” at Indian ports and the government is initiating path-breaking reforms to help MSMEs and businesses in a bid to make the country self-reliant.

“It is a good step. The imports from China will be discouraged and the country will take large strides towards self-reliance,” the minister said and added that he was among the strongest proponents of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

Amid heightened border tensions with China, Indian customs officials have started physical inspection of all consignments coming from the neighbouring country, especially at Chennai and Vishakhapatnam ports.

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