- Government has set ambitious target of awarding contracts for 20,000 kms and building 15,000 kms of highways in FY21.
- Central engineering service (CES) officers have been warned against laxity and asked to complete tasks within given timelines.
- Total highway construction in April fell to 210 kms, almost one fourth of 792 kms logged in the same month last year.
- Industry experts expect the pace to remain slow till September before it picks up after the monsoon season.
Undeterred by coronavirus-triggered headwinds, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) headed by Nitin Gadkari has set an ambitious target of constructing 15,000 kms highways in FY21, up 46% over what it built in the previous year.
The bid-out goal at 20,000 kms is equally high as it had managed to award 8,912 kms in FY20. The award run rate could have been higher had coronavirus pandemic not clouded investor sentiments.
With directions from the top, the MoRTH seems determined to maintain the pace of highway development and wants its officers to not take their foot off the pedal. But the task ahead is uphill as many workers have left the construction sites to head home. Uncertainty looms over their return with many industry insiders claiming that the situation will return to normal only post-monsoon.
In an internal circular, the Ministry has advised central engineering service (CES) officers against laxity on their part and directed them to complete their tasks within the given timelines.
"Agency and officer wise target break-up down the line upto PIU (project implementation unit) level may be issued by the Ministry/NHAI/NHIDCL at the earliest. The targets set, works awarded and the targets achieved are to be duly recorded in the APAR (Annual Performance Assessment Report)," the office memorandum dated June 8 has noted.
While bidding out target is being seen as doable given that many projects from the previous fiscal could now be offered, actual construction would be difficult in the face of massive disruptions caused by the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The lockdown restrictions have been lifted now and developers have started activities on the site but shortage of labour has impacted the pace of construction.
As per MoRTH data, the total highway construction in April, 2020 fell to 210 kms, almost one fourth of 792 kms logged in the same period last year.
The Ministry had constructed 10,237 kms of national highways during 2019-20, a tad lower than 10,885 kms logged in the previous fiscal. It had bid out 8,912 km of highways for construction in FY20.
While the Ministry reported rapid expansion of highway network with average daily construction reaching a peak of 31 kms, the coronavirus pandemic has considerably impacted the sector. Industry experts expect the pace to remain slow till September before it picks up after the monsoon season.
Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has, however, been bullish on both award and construction targets. Setting an ambitious target of constructing 60 km of highways per day, the Minister has said that faster pace of work would help the economy recover from the shock of coronavirus pandemic.