Our Bureau

New Delhi, June 3

In the backdrop of the recent CBI raids on top NHAI officials on charges of corruption, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry on Thursday tried to allay fears of the highway development project implementation will take a hit.

Without giving any definite time limit for the award of projects, the Ministry stated that NHAI will award 18 projects, at an estimated cost of Rs 13,886 crore over the next few months.

The Ministry statement also said that the two officers of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have been suspended and repatriated back from NHAI to their respective parent cadres/departments. Recently, the Road Transport and Highways Minister, Mr Kamal Nath, avoided replying questions on corruption in the highway bidding process in the backdrop of the CBI raids.

On May 25, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case of criminal conspiracy and corruption against top level officers of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and Mr K.S. Bakshi, Managing Director of Oriental Structural Engineers (OSE) Ltd.

The case was with regard to a contract awarded to OSE to widen national highway stretch on Nagpur-Betur section.

“The modus operandi of NHAI officials was to eliminate all potential contenders on one pretext or the other and favour the accused company ensuring huge financial gains to it,” the CBI said.

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Incidentally, Larsen & Toubro, which was one of the affected bidders in this project, had already moved the Delhi High Court against the decision, and had also withdrawn the case, subsequently. Last year, two companies Navinya Buildcon and GVK had also moved the court against certain clause in the NHAI bidding process. GVK withdrew the case last year.

Navinya Buildcon, which had moved the Supreme Court, also arrived at an out of court settlement recently.

“NHAI will award 18 projects with a total project cost of Rs. 13,886 crore in the coming months,” it stated in the press release issued on Thursday.

“The NHAI Chairman, Mr Brijeshwar Singh, said that bids for the projects with a combined length of about 1,576.61 km and due date in June and July have already been invited,” the Ministry stated in a release.

This includes five projects across Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, two projects each in Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal; and one each in Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 4, 2010)
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