Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Road Projects in India - Critical ??

The subject of this post can be captured using the word 'Critical'. Are the highways projects being undertaken by the National Highway Authority of India critical for the development of the country ? And does the current pace of development so bad that it can be termed critical. The answer is yes to both questions, and outlines the problems that this country faces in terms of infrastructure.
The development of good, fast highways is an extremely important part of the infrastructure of the country; it helps in keeping the movement of goods across large distances, enables greater mobility of people, reduces the dangers of perishable items expiring, reduces cost fluctuations caused by distance factors, improves the life of vehicles and tyres, reduces fuel consumption, and a few others. In India, one of the best things that the BJP Government is remembered is for the massive road projects that it launched, and with the Highways Minister Col. Khanduri running it, the projects were on track. Given the importance of this area, one would have thought that the Congress Government would ensure that the projects are on track. However, for some time now, it has been clear that these projects are not on track, and here is a severe admonishment of the Government from the Delhi High Court:

The Delhi High Court seems to have hit upon the root cause of why crucial highway projects across the country have been moving at a snail's pace in the past few years. And the discovery has left the court both shocked and angry. The HC found that the ministry of surface transport and highways was indulging in "day to day interference" into the affairs of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), a statutory body granted functional autonomy by Parliament.
"The actions of the Union of India...indicates that not only autonomy granted to NHAI by Parliament through a statute enacted in this regard has been curtailed and eroded, but NHAI is sought to be reduced to a mere department of the ministry of road transport and highways," an anguished HC noted. The court discovered through evidence tabled before it how the ministry kept forwarding bidders to NHAI, asking the latter to re-evaluate their applications even though NHAI had finalized its bidding process for the Hyderabad project.

Unfortunately, this is not the only case where the Congress Government interferes with institutions. The strictures on the Health Minister over its interference in AIIMS, the severe crippling of the autonomy of the CBI, and numerous other cases are already there; in many of these cases, there has been adverse opinions from various courts that the Government shrugs off.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:22 PM