- Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari says that highway building programme would not be impacted due to Corona crisis
- Road Transport Ministry evaluating bids for highways projects of more than 1,300 km of length which can be awarded immediately
- Another 1,500 km is ready for bidding
- Banks have promised to support the infrastructure sector and the national highways in particular
- Gadkari expressed confidence that the crisis would be overcome within a short span of time
"In fact, highways are lifeline of communication and connectivity in most parts of India and disaster management requires good infrastructure and connectivity so both are important," Gadkari told Business Today in an interview.
The Minister said that government has ensured liquidity for the highways sector and has asked National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and all other agencies to immediately release any legitimate dues that may be pending against any ongoing project.
In a bid to continue the momentum of highway development in the country, Gadkari said that his current priority is to resume construction works at various sites as soon as the Coronavirus-triggered lockdown is lifted.
Even as the lockdown continues, steps are being taken to restart works at certain stretches while following social-distancing norms and other health and hygiene measures.
Moreover, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry (MoRTH) has been busy preparing bids for various national highway (NH) projects. Gadkari exuded hopes that government would not miss its target of awarding new highway projects in FY20-21.
"I have asked NHAI and MoRTH to complete the approvals and other desk works during the lockdown. As soon as it's over we will be able to start bidding of projects. We already have bids under evaluation for more than 1,300 km of length, which can be awarded immediately. Another 1,500 km is ready for bidding. So I don't think our targets for award will see any decline," the Minister said.
Besides clearing the bills of developers and contractors, the Road Transport Ministry is also ensuring that banks and financial institutions continue to provide credit to the highways sector.
"I along with Finance Minister had taken a detailed meeting with Bank CMDs just before the lockdown, they have assured us that banks will continue to support the infrastructure sector and the NHs (national highways) in particular," Gadkari said.
With Gadkari at the helm, highways sector has seen steady rise in road building across the country. The NHAI constructed 3,979 km of national highways in FY20, its highest in any financial year so far.
However, the sector may face some challenges in coming quarters as Coronavirus has brought economic activities to a complete halt and threatens to derail growth in many sectors. Given that government has hundreds of road projects in pipeline, any disruption in construction or fund crunch could play spoilsport.
The MoRTH has approved building of 34,800 km of national highways in 5 years with an estimated cost of Rs 5.35 lakh crore under Phase-I of Bharatmala Pariyojana. Out of this, the NHAI has been mandated to build 27,500 km.
Minister Gadkari said that global economy is witnessing challenges arising due to recent Corona pandemic and the highways sector is also not isolated but expressed confidence that the crisis would be overcome within a short span of time.