Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is going to take up the issue of the slowdown in completion of national highways at the infrastructure committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
The Ministry of Shipping, Roads and Transport is to give the Prime Minister a status report tomorrow outlining the progress made on the golden quadrilateral (GQ) and the North-South, East-West corridors, after which there will be discussions on the factors which are holding back completion of projects.
Sources said that the issue was only included as a new item on Tuesday night and was not originally scheduled for Thursday’s meet. While this special committee is chaired by the PM, the other crucial members include the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and finance minister P Chidambram. Their feedback on the highway projects is going to be crucial.
While the ministry is going to list of a variety of factors for the current state of affairs, it is learnt that the two main issues that would emerge from the ministry’s presentation are going to be land acquisition and contractor non-performance. Land acquisition is one factor which is not only responsible for delays in the GQ but is now expected to be a major issue for all the National Highway Development Programmes. This problem, sources said, needs to be resolved at the state level as well as through better coordination with other ministries such as the environment ministry.
However, the more ticklish issue for NHAI and the ministry is going to be explaining contractor non-performance. Contractors blame the NHAI for delaying land acquisition, which prevents it from taking action against non-performers as contractors could go to court and cause more delay.
There are other problems with respect to viability of contractors themselves. In some pending projects, contractors declared themselves bankrupt and could not invest into the project.
While one of the issues that is expected to be pointed out to the PM is that these programmes do not have a set uniform deadline, the one major issue that could emerge during the discussions is the revamp model for NHAI, over which the Planning Commission and the ministry are yet to arrive at a consensus.
The future structure of the organisation, sources said, would determine how well these highway programmes are implemented.