Political Pressure Has NHAI Cracking Whip On GQ Delay

New Delhi, Aug 30: | Updated: Aug 31 2002, 05:30am hrs
Under political pressure of completing the Prime Ministers national highway development project (NHDP) on time, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is aiming to get work started on the Allahabad bypass, the Himatnagar-Chiloda stretch in Gujarat, and a few other stretches in the next few weeks. These projects have become the Achilles heel of the Rs 30,300-crore first phase of the NHDP.

NHAI says it is the award of three contracts for the 84-km Allahabad bypass, which is keeping the phase I from reaching 100 per cent completion by the targetted date of December 03, but officials admit privately that land acquisition in some small stretches is causing the delay. Nonetheless, 99 per cent of the first phase which comprises the Golden Quadrilateral connecting New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai will be completed by that date, said an NHAI official.

Moreover, NHDP is not about constructing new roads, it is actually about widening the existing roads and wherever there are traffic bottlenecks creating bypasses. It is not that new roads have to be built. It is just that we have to add new lanes and strengthen the earlier lanes, admitted an official.

Asked whether the delay has been caused due to lobbying by conflicting political interest and infighting within the ruling coalition, minister of state for highways Maj Gen (retd) BC Khanduri said, there is no infighting within the NHDP.

The minister argued that the work is going on in full swing. The proof, he says, is the fact that there is a dispute relating to only one contract out of over 100 awarded so far. This one relates to a Delhi high court order which had set aside the selection of contractor for the 52km Himatnagar-Chiloda stretch in Gujarat.

According to officials, award of contract for the Allahabad bypass project has been delayed because of finalisation of its alignment. Planning for a new road takes time. Besides, the bypass is being funded by the World Bank which involves evaluation of the project at several stages, pointed out an official, and said multilateral agencies evaluate the project from the social, environmental as well as economic angles.

There are problems relating to land acquisition on some stretches in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The amendment in laws relating to land acquisition has made our jobs easy, said an official.

However, acquiring land also means rehabilitating people and giving correct compensation to the rightful owners so that it cannot be contested in court.

In India, we face the problem of missing land records so it becomes difficult to know who is the rightful owner. Besides, granting compensation to a person who might have set up a tea stall on agricultural land but is asking for commercial rates becomes problematic, said the official.