The government’s decision to provide funds to stalled national highway projects, commented upon in the editorial ‘Rebooting roads’ (October 16), should be based on certain parameters, such as the extent of completion of projects (starting with, say, 95 per cent completed projects downwards), track record of project execution team and contracting agency in terms of zero cost and time overrun, reputation of the top management for good administration, and capacity to repay debt.

A memorandum of understanding between the ministry and the top management on this count is desirable.

The crux of the issue is that with so much of money already blocked in incomplete endeavours, fresh fund release should be prudently planned.

YG Chouksey


The same syndrome

Thanks to a public sector driven command economy pursued by the nation at the turn of Independence, the twin issues of time and cost overruns continue to trouble us even after six decades.

The road infra projects are but part of the same syndrome. With all the fanfare over the PPP mode, delays remain a serious concern. The government is unable to keep to its own commitments.

The National Highways Authority of India admits at least ₹60,000 crore worth of road projects in the country lie unfinished mainly because of difficulty in obtaining the required land.

Age old incompetencies still trouble us; either the tendering process is incomplete or the terms and conditions are unclear or there are lengthy litigations and local political interference.

PPP contracts are often signed even before having a clear understanding of how much land needs to be acquired and by when.

R Narayanan


The governments both in the Centre and the States collect all sorts of taxes — when you buy a bike you need to pay road tax; when you buy petrol and diesel, half of the retail price goes towards taxes. Where does all this money go?

Logically, the taxes on fuel and road tax should be earmarked to build roads. After paying all kinds of taxes, we are forced pay toll charges to use these highways and that too at exorbitant rates. If at least a part of these taxes are allocated to build roads, we won’t need the private sector.

C R Arun


Aadhaar requirement

The Supreme Court has done well in allowing the government to use Aadhaar cards for Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, MNREGA and pension and provident fund schemes only after obtaining the citizens’ consent. The use of these cards were earlier restricted only to PDS and distribution of LPG.

The court’s direction to the government that no person should be deprived of any benefit of the social welfare scheme in case he or she did not have the Aadhaar card should also be well received.

The authorities could also think of turning the Aadhaar card into a social security card on the lines of those in America and the West so that citizens are rid of the need to carry multiple cards.

N J Ravi Chander


Fiscal imprudence

This refers to SS Tarapore’s article “The exchequer is not a cookie jar” (October 16). The need for a prudent ‘Asset Liability Management’ approach in handling government finances is excellently brought out. The ‘take as it comes’ approach to revenue and ‘pay as you go’ approach to expenditure, which is a legacy of the pre-independence governments, needs a quick re-visit. If trust is restored, the accumulated wealth in the form of gold and jewellery as also hidden savings in the form of unaccounted money and ‘undervalued’ assets, will surface, which will be available for investment.

Short-term measures like dipping into the reserves of central bank and selling ‘family jewels’ for meeting fancy targets of modern economic planning (showing a lower fiscal deficit) without ensuring corresponding reduction in debt or increase in productive assets can be suicidal, in the long term.

MG Warrier


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