Fed up of over interference by Planning Commission advisor (infrastructure) in the ministry's affairs, more than a dozen senior officials of road transport and highways ministry and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) resigned on Wednesday to protest their repeated "humiliation".
The officials, on Wednesday, submitted their resignation to road secretary AK Upadhyay after a meeting chaired by road minister CP Joshi.
Sources said the immediate provocation was the disparaging remarks made against the NHAI and road ministry officials at a meeting chaired by Joshi and attended by Gajendra Haldea, advisor to plan panel deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia who is overseeing transport projects.
According to one account, the problem began soon after the meeting to review the progress of Engineering Procurement Contract (EPC) projects -- a new model to build highway projects.
"In the meeting, expressing his displeasure over ministry officials coming unprepared, Joshi abruptly concluded the meeting. This was followed by a separate meeting between the road secretary and Haldea where there was some heated argument," said a source.
Soon after the meeting ended, the officials decided "enough was enough" and decided to resign.
"A letter was drafted and signed by all the officials, which was then submitted to the road secretary," said a source.
However, when contacted, Haldea denied that there was any disagreement.
He said, "There is no disagreement as the issue is still being discussed and the next consultative meeting is fixed
for December 20th. The new model that is being prepared is based on international best practice to avoid cost and time over run."
The list of officials who resigned include two of the four NHAI members, whose post are equivalent to that of additional secretary and special secretary.
With this, the top rung of the road ministry's engineering wing has become headless.