The pace of road construction by the Union road ministry and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is not proportionate with the award of road contracts, official data has revealed. However, experts believe the record is much better than what was it prior to 2013-14 since that time project award had slowed down considerably.
Since 2013-14, there has been a 77 per cent increase in highway contract award and 38 per cent rise in construction. Though this could largely be due to a slowdown in award of contracts in earlier years, experts said construction record after three years should usually be 90 per cent of the award in a given year. By that parameter, both the ministry of road transport and highways and the NHAI have outperformed this thumb rule.
For instance, the length of highway contracts awarded by NHAI was 1,726 km in 2013-14 but the highway construction record after three years was much better at 2,628 km at the end of 2016-17.
Similarly, the length of road projects awarded by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in 2014-15 stood at 4,905 km and the length of road projects completed in 2017-18 was 6167 km.
Former road secretary Vijay Chhibber, however, said construction and award have no co-relation. "For a project that has been awarded in 2015-16, the construction only picks up after the first year. For every 10,000 km awarded in a year the outcome (final construction) should be 8,500-9,000 km by the end of the third."
While the number of highway project contracts awarded in 2017-18 touched a new high, a number of older ones are well behind schedule.
In data shared with the Lok Sabha in March, the ministry of road transport and highways said 107 projects had or would miss the originally scheduled completion date.
Recently, Union Road Minister Nitin Gadkari directed states to complete around 700 highway projects before March next year. There are 692 projects of 9,558 km, currently under various stages of execution.
The construction target in 2018-19 is 16,420 km, of which 9,700 km will be built by the road ministry, 6,000 km by the NHAI, and 720 km by the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
According to the official data, as many as 71 projects of 1,054 km figure on the pre-2014 list of pending projects. In 2014-15, there were 45 pending projects of 314 km, and in 2015-16, 91 projects of 1,739 km. The number grew to 261 of 6,278 km in 2016-17 and to 332 of 7,710 km in 2017-18.