The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways of the NDA government has been increasing the work order for the expansion of national highways across the country in the last three years, but implementation of the same has been tardy. In fact, only 60% of the expansion work has been completed so far, while the rest is incomplete due to a “lack of seriousness” on the part of contractors and officials who are vested with the responsibility of overseeing the construction.
The latest data from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways shows that around 34,000 km of work order was awarded between 2014-17 under Nitin Gadkari, against 14,879 km of work order rolled out between 2011-14, when the United Progressive Alliance was in power. The data also shows that during the UPA regime, highways were constructed at the rate of 10 km per day, which has increased to 17 km a day in the NDA regime, with the current government’s target being 40 km a day.
Senior officials in the ministry admitted that against the 34,018 km of work allocated for construction of highways in the last three years, 18,702 km (a little less than 60%) of work has been completed. During the UPA (2011-14) regime, against the 14,879 km of work order, 12,005 km of construction work was completed.
A highly-placed source in the ministry told The Sunday Guardian, “The ministry and the PMO are very much focused and concerned about increasing the length of highways and, therefore, as the data also shows, a lot of work has been awarded which includes awarding of tenders to companies for construction, because at the policy level, we are committed towards increasing the expansion of highways and expediting work. But things are not moving on the ground as much as we want, as officials and contractors are showing a lackadaisical attitude towards the completion of these works.”
The source further added that Union minister Gadkari, too, has expressed his concern about completing the work on time and has been following up on the issue on a daily basis with all the stakeholders. Gadkari recently said that the government’s aim was to reach the daily highway construction target of 40 km per day by next year, for which he has asked for cooperation from the state governments.
Last year, the government launched the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which aims to build and optimise the efficiency of road traffic movement across the country by fulfilling the connectivity needs of areas of economic activity, places of religious and tourist interest, border areas, backward and tribal areas, coastal areas and trade routes with neighbouring countries.
Under this scheme, a total of around 53,000 km of national highways has been identified to improve the efficiency of the National Corridor. During Phase-I, 24,800 km will be taken up, and implemented over a period of five years between 2017 to 2022 in a phased manner. The cost of this project in Phase-I is pegged at around Rs 535,000 crore.