House panel voices concern over delays in highway scheme projects
The committee — headed by TG Venkatesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) MP from Andhra Pradesh — tabled its report in the Rajya Sabha on the third day of the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament
The parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture in its report on Wednesday expressed concerns over delay in the construction of “port connectivity roads” under the Bharatmala Pariyojana, an umbrella highway development scheme.
The committee — headed by TG Venkatesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) MP from Andhra Pradesh — tabled its report in the Rajya Sabha on the third day of the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament.
The report pulled up the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) over the “extremely slow progress of works” to connect major ports under the project.
“The committee notes that even though the initially targeted date of completion of Bharatmala Pariyojana Phase-I was 2021-22, only 168km of the port connectivity roads have been awarded while the rest of the 2,105km are in various stages of DPR preparation. The committee is of the considered view that lack of robust road connectivity to ports is one of the major bottlenecks faced by the shipping sector in India,” the report said.
“The committee strongly recommends that the ministry should take a serious look at the various factors impeding the award of these road projects and take urgent steps and undertake dedicated efforts to iron out the same to bolster the growth of the shipping sector in the country,” it added.
Bharatmala Pariyojana is a mega integrated project that includes construction of about 26,000 km length of economic corridors, the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) and North-South and East-West (NS-EW) aimed to ease freight traffic in the country.
The panel also expressed its displeasure over the MoRTH seeking more funds from the finance ministry than what it is able to spend. “The committee is deeply concerned to note that the ministry was able to spend only 43.5% of the budget allocated for Research and Development at RE 2020-21. The committee strongly recommends that the ministry of road transport & highways may ensure that fund requirements are projected correctly at the time of requesting funds from the ministry of finance,” the House panel said in its report.
It further pointed out that the ministry did a downward revision in the revised estimate of 2020-21 under the maintenance and repairs head compared to the budget estimate of 2020-21. “…Maintenance and repairs should have been given much higher priority and weightage given the poor condition of National Highways,” it stated.
This comes a day after the MoRTH saw a 68.59% increase in its overall allocation in the Union Budget 2022-23 compared to last year’s budget. It was one of the steepest hikes among all ministries. The total allocation for the ministry has been increased to ₹1.99 trillion from ₹1.18 trillion in FY 2021-22, even as the revised estimate was ₹1.31 trillion.
The panel said the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has a total staff of only 1,122 against a sanctioned strength of 1,892 as of March 31, 2021.
On funds given to states and Union territories (UT), the committee found that the funds released to Ladakh was less than 40% of the actual budgetary allocation made to the UT in 2020-21. “Given the strategic location of the UT of Ladakh and the pressing need for development of a robust road network in the region, the committee recommends that the ministry may proactively reach out to the UT department concerned and try to iron out any technical difficulties being faced in the execution of projects, if need be, so that the budgetary provisions made for the UT of Ladakh can be utilised optimally,” it stated.