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NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has replaced Subhash Chandra Garg, secretary in the department of economic affairs, on the board of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The reorganisation of the NHAI board was made as part of the Cabinet approval for the ambitious Bharatmala programme. The government last month empowered the NHAI to appraise projects worth over Rs 1,000 crore. Earlier, government-funded infrastructure projects were appraised by the Public Investment Board, which had representation from the NITI Aayog. “After doing away with PIB and power being vested with the NHAI, NITI Aayog also needed representation on the board,” said an official aware of the developments. He, however, did not elaborate on the need for replacing the DEA secretary. Public-private partnership projects are appraised by the Public Private Project Appraisal Committee, which has the DEA secretary on its board. According to another official who did not wish to be named, the decision was taken in the previous Cabinet meeting along with approval for the ambitious Bharatmala project and empowerment of the NHAI board. The expanded NHAI board at present consists of its members and part-members, who are secretary (MORTH), secretary (DEA), secretary (expenditure) and DG Roads. The Cabinet recently approved a proposal to provide greater autonomy to the NHAI board.
All EPC projects will be apprised by a mechanism set by the authority and will be approved by it, for BOT projects the board is authorised to clear projects up to Rs 2,000 crore.BOT (toll) projects with viability gap funding will follow the existing procedure of being appraised by the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee. In hybrid-annuity and BOT annuity up to Rs 2,000 crore, the road transport secretary is empowered to appraise projects and the minister is authorised to take a decision. Beyond Rs 2,000 crore, projects need to be approved by the Cabinet. NHAI’s powers — NHAI was constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1988 — On October 25, the Union Cabinet approved greater autonomy to the the NHAI board — NHAI board is empowered to approve all EPC (engineering-procurement-construction) projects — For BOT (build-operate-transfer) projects the authorisation is up to Rs 2,000 crore — BOT (toll) with VGF or viability gap funding will follow the existing procedure of getting appraised by the PPPAC