Blames lack of coordination between Ministries, delayed clearances

The Nitin Gadkari-headed Roads and Highways Ministry released a “white paper” on Wednesday, listing the problems faced by the road sector and what needs to be done to remedy the situation.

The paper blames lack of coordination across various Ministries — Department of Financial Services, Environment, Railways and Defence — as one of the key causes for road projects not getting implemented.

It blames “the tendency (of different Ministries) to work in silos and a desire to dominate over and preserve their individual turfs, even when it goes against national interest.”

The paper further points out that of 332 road projects, some 189 — involving an outlay of ₹27,209 crore — were stuck in disputes. The paper is fairly blunt in parts while blaming lack of support from other Ministries.

“It will not be incorrect to say that the Department of Financial Services and Ministry of Environment and Forests brought the entire road sector to its knees,” it said.

Roadblock

Not just that, “The impact of aggressive bidding could have been contained if Environment Ministry and Department of Financial Services had not acted the way they did.

The Railway Ministry has also been extremely tardy while giving clearances.

Some 90 clearances from the Railways are yet to come through, some of them pending for three years, and Defence Ministry not transferring land for almost five to seven years,” says paper.

The white paper also highlights the differences between the Highways Ministry and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). There is a reference to the Highway Ministry diverting a larger amount of fuel cess funds towards other projects: “The Road Ministry has diverted, till 2013-14, ₹6,966 crore, due to NHAI for other projects. It has also said that till 2013-14, ₹3,321 crore has not been ploughed back to NHAI.”

It lists a host of problems, many of which have been flagged by the NHAI and the Highways Ministry to the earlier UPA Government.

Corrective action

It has also listed corrective action taken in the last three years, and further action required, such as more autonomy for NHAI, making other Ministries accountable, allowing the Roads Ministry or NHAI Board to renegotiate contracts and relaxing the exit clause.

Incidentally, in 2009-10, the then Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee, had also issued a white paper on the Railways.

Sources say similar white papers are being planned for other Ministries, such as Shipping.

(This article was published on July 2, 2014)
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