Whenever the minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari was asked if his target to accelerate the road construction to 40 km/day for FY17 was too ambitious, he used to exude confidence and assert the target would be achieved. However, eight months into the year, official sources now admit things are far behind the schedule. At best, 10,000-km new highways, two-thirds of the target, could be built this year, they said, adding that new projects awards were unlikely to cross 15,000 km, against the targeted 25,000 km.
Apart from the continued torpor in private investments — BOT projects have barely kicked off and the hybrid annuity model that mitigates developers’ risk too has seen only moderate success — over-optimistic targets were also to blame for the slippage, analysts said. This year’s construction target is 2.5 times what was accomplished last year.
Till October-end, the road ministry, along with the National Highways Authority of India, could award projects to build 4,443-km highways and constructed only 3,591-km new ones. “Even as the present numbers look a bit disappointing, we are hopeful of constructing 10,000-km highways this fiscal considering the fact that construction generally picks up in the second half of the year while constant monitoring might help us award 15,000 km projects in the current fiscal,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
The ministry sets monthly targets both for itself and for the NHAI. The combined target for the April-October period had been fixed at 11,208 km for awards and 6,036 km for constructions. NHAI has fared worse than the ministry so far.
The authority has been asked to construct 8,000-km highways and award 15,000-km projects in the current fiscal. It was asked to award 8,750-km projects and construct 2,800 km highways during the April-October period against which it could manage only 2,330-km awards and 2,800-km construction. The ministry has constructed 2,357 km and awarded 2,032-km highways against the respective targets of 2,618 km and 2,032 km in the April-October period. India had constructed 6,063-km highways and awarded 10,098-km highway projects in the last fiscal.