Modi government’s northeast push will only see 7.5% road target achieved

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) Even as poor road connectivity in India’s Northeast continues to stall the government’s ‘Act East Policy’, the state-run company mandated to improve this crucial infrastructure will barely manage 7.5 per cent of its target by 2019, official data shows.

According to its updated work status, the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corp Ltd (NHIDCL), established in July 2014, will only be able to construct a little over 300 km of roads till 2019, against a target of 4,000 km it has been tasked with building in the coming years.

The NHIDCL was set up by the Narendra Modi government in July 2014 to speed up road construction in the Northeast. However, the mandate of the PSU will remain far behind when the Modi government completes its five years.

The company, specifically formed to replace the Border Roads Organization (BRO) following its failure to meet its targets, says it will be able to complete a total of 63.39 km of roads by 2017, 129.21 km by 2018 and 108.53 km by 2019.

“Road construction is a time consuming task and it takes at least five years of time. We face severe hurdles during the planning as well as the execution of the road project. But whatever we commit we do,” a senior authority of NHIDCL, who did not wished to be named, told IANS.

Elaborating the difficulties faced by the NHIDCL authorities in the execution of the projects in the northeast, he said: “Land acquisition is a major issue. We have not been able to start the work in Meghalaya as we have not been able to get the land despite speaking to the higher authorities. Still we are trying to find out ways after meeting them over the issue.”

Arunachal Pradesh will be most benefited state in the entire north east as majority of the roads to be completed by 2019 lie in the border and interior areas of the state.

Most of the NHIDCL projects now are either at the preparation of DPR (Detailed Project Report) or location identification stage, the official said.

NHIDCL was tasked with constructing over 4,000 km of road in the hilly terrains of India, majority being in the north east region at an cost of Rs 45,164 crore (nearly $7 billion).

According to the government, good quality roads in the north east can boost India’s trade with the entire Southeast Asian region, which has been marred by poor connectivity.

Earlier, in an interview to IANS, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh said that they did not wish to invest in the north eastern region of India because of poor road and air connectivity which posed a hindrance to developing tourism and other economic linkages.

Citing other reasons behind the difficulties faced by NHIDCL, the senior authority said that there were several cases where work would get stalled as the contractors used to go to court over several “petty” issues.

“As of now we are not even giving chance to the contractors or the DPR developers to commit any mistake. We are either serving them notice or directly blacklisting the companies if found guilty of any malpractice during the road contract,” the senior authority told IANS.

Among the projects given to NHIDCL in the initial months in 2014 include 11 projects in Manipur, nine in Meghalaya, three in Mizoram, four in Nagaland, 23 in Arunachal Pradesh and seven in Tripura.

In several projects, Japanese infrastructure major Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has also chipped in.

The 100-km road project between Imphal, Manipur, and Moreh on the Indo-Myanmar border is being funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), as it is a link between India and Myanmar.

Considering the good performance of NHIDCL, the Indian government has appointed the Public Sector Unit as a consultant for the construction of over 600 km of postal roads in the Terai region bordering Nepal.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at rupesh.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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