PM pulls up ministry for tardy road work

'Meet target of constructing 20 km of road a day'

The prime minister, who reviewed the progress of infrastructure projects recently, pulled up the ministry for its failure to meet the target even after two years of announcement.

“The target of completing 20 km a day is neither excessive, given our needs, nor unrealistic, given the priority we attach to this sector,” the PM had said. Soon after the UPA-2 government came to power in 2009, the then Road Transport and Highways minister Kamal Nath had set an ambitious goal of building 35,000 km of roads by 2014 which translated into a target of developing 20 km of road a day.

His announcement was to counter the opposition criticism that the highway building activities went haywire since the Congress-led government came to power at the Centre. Interestingly, even after two years of announcement, the construction activities did not even touch 14 km per day.

Amid criticism over poor progress, Kamal Nath was shifted out of the ministry and C P Joshi took charge.  Even under Joshi’s stewardship, the activities are moving at a snail’s pace as it could not appoint a suitable person as chairman of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

While asking the ministry officials to expedite the pending projects, the prime minister pointed out that on the expenditure front, too, the ministry could spend Rs 27,902 crore against the Rs 35,680-crore allotment. However, the ministry officials promised that projects under implementation will touch 23,000 km by 2012-13 enabling it to meet the 20 km-per-day target.

To accelerate the road building activities, the ministry had drawn a grandiose plan to invest a whopping 2.64 lakh crore in the road sector in the next five years, for which the NHAI will shell out Rs 87,000 crore. The remaining fund will be generated from private players. During January-June this year, the NHAI has completed work in a length of 1,042 km.  The Transport Ministry has set a target of awarding 7,300 km of roads in the current fiscal.

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