Contrary to general perception that the last mile of the Golden Quadrilateral, the first phase of the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP), is stuck due to land acquisition problems and lack of environmental clearances, information submitted by the ministry of road transport and highways to Parliament shows that the culprit in most cases is the contractor. The GQ connects the four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai.
According to the ministry, 19 km or a mere 0.4 per cent of the GQ that is pending for four years involves eight projects. Five of these eight projects are pending due to poor performance by the contractor. Four of the eight projects are in Orissa, two in Karnataka and one each in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The ministry is hopeful that the 5,846-km project launched in 1999 will be 100 per cent completed by December this year. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in December 2006.
The government had initially estimated that the GQ project would cost Rs 60,000 crore at 1999 prices. But expenditure incurred so far is just about half at Rs 30,858 crore. The eight contracts currently under implementation are worth Rs 1,634 crore.
Two stretches in Karnataka namely Haveri-Harihar and Harihar-Chitradurga have alone caused a time over run of 84 months or seven years with the government terminating the initial contract and re-awarding the projects. The new contractor too could not meet the deadline due to non-utilisation of plant and equipment with the expelled contractor filing a number of cases.
Orissa reported delays of up to 89 months on two stretches ó Balasore-Bhadrak and Sunakhala-Ganjam. These were re-awarded as the bank guarantee of the contractors was forfeited. The Ganjam-Ichchapuram stretch slated for completion in November 2008 was stuck due to non-availability of quarry lease and blasting license. State-owned Indian Rare Earths is also yet to grant closer of railway sidings for the project. The Bhubaneshwar-Khurda stretch, which has a time overrun of 90 months was delayed due to problems between the joint venture partners constructing the road.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Agra-Shikohabad stretch remains incomplete mainly due to non-availability of railway over bridge (ROB) clearance from railways. One bridge project in West Bengal delayed by 92 months has now been added to the six laning of Dhankuni-Kharagpur.