With the government facing an uphill task of constructing 41 km of highways every day, it may bring road construction under close supervision of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
The government may soon include Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant in the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) board; a move aimed at ensuring swift execution of the projects.
While a proposal has been mooted jointly by the NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the Cabinet may take a decision soon in this regard.
Officials said such an arrangement was in place during the erstwhile Planning Commission when its secretary used to be a member in the NHAI board.
However, after the Narendra Modi government created disbanded Planning Commission, its presence in the NHAI ceased to exist.
'WILL HELP FAST TRACK PROJECTS'
"The step will help fast track clearances to highway projects at a time when the Centre is struggling to meet the current construction rate target of highways of over 40 km per day," a senior transport ministry official said.
He said the presence of NITI Aayog CEO in NHAI board will empower it to clear all highway projects on its own, instead of taking the long route of seeking clearances from MoRTH and the finance ministry, prior to sending them for Cabinet approval.
The move assumes significance as the road transport ministry has managed to construct only half its annual highway construction target till February this year. The delay has been essentially due to land acquisition hurdles and poor performance of contractors.
TARGET FY 2016-17: 15,000 KMS
The ministry, which had set a target of constructing 15,000 kilometres in this financial year, has managed to build only 6,604 kilometres of highways as of February-end, said the minister of state for road transport and highways Pon Radhakrishnan, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
The written statement also cites non-availability of soil aggregates used for road construction, pending environment, forest and wildlife clearances and issues with the Indian Railways for over-bridges and under-bridges as some of the factors which slowed down the pace of construction.
The move will cover nearly 25,000 kilometres of highway construction in India with an investment of at least Rs 3.5 lakh crore. Well placed sources said while the contracts for these projects have been awarded or in the process of being awarded, its timely execution over the next two years will be the key focus of the government.
BUDGET BOOST FOR ROADS
Interestingly, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the ministry aims to build 30 kilometres of highways per day within this financial year even as the current rate of road construction is only 21 kilometres per day.
In the Union Budget 2016-17, finance minister Arun Jaitley had earmarked Rs 97,000 crore towards roads and highways, including Rs 15,000 crore to be raised by the National Highway Authority of India through bond issuance. The NHAI had set a target of awarding 15,000 kilometres of new road projects by March 2017.
The Union Budget 2017-18 stepped up the allocation towards roads and highways was stepped up to Rs 64,000 crore.