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Planning Commission objects to expressways vertical under NHAI, wants an independent authority

The Planning Commission has said there should be an independent body to oversee the development of expressways in the country.

Last Updated: Aug 27, 2013, 04.00 AM IST
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The Planning Commission has said there should be an independent body to oversee the development of expressways in the country.
The Planning Commission has said there should be an independent body to oversee the development of expressways in the country.
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NEW DELHI: The Planning Commission has said there should be an independent body to oversee the development of expressways in the country, raising objections to the clearance given by the highways authority a week ago to create a separate vertical for the purpose under its purview.


Creation of an independent expressway authority was part of the 11th Five-year Plan. However, a month ago, the road ministry decided to set up a dedicated expressway cell to push the eastern peripheral expressway and two new projects—the Mumbai-Vadorara Expressway and the Meerut Expressway.

“If you want expressways, then there has to be a specialised body to do this,” Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told ET, adding that . “I had a meeting with Oscar Fernandes a few days back. We are trying to resolve some difference and I think these will be sorted out.” The road ministry, however, believes that having a separate vertical within the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) would be more efficient, both financially and legally.
The Planning Commission has said there should be an independent body to oversee the development of expressways in the country.


Last week, the NHAI board approved a proposal to set up a separate vertical to look at expediting development of expressways. The vertical would be in the form of a company or corporation and would be headed by NHAI member in-charge of public-private partnerships.

According to the road ministry, keeping the expressway cell under the NHAI would enable it to draw on the highway authority's kitty. Besides, the NHAI has the requisite human resources and potential to raise additional funds and the subsidiary could operate smoothly within the legal framework available under the NHAI Act.

The plan panel, however, disagrees. “We think only an independent body, outside the control of NHAI, can expedite the work on expressways, which has been identified as one the key infrastructure projects to be pursued this year,” said another senior plan panel official, requesting anonymity.

The Plan panel and the road ministry have locked horns over several issues concerning the sector in the recent times. The Plan panel is believed to have objected initially to the road ministry's equity take-out proposal that would allow financially stressed developers to sell their entire stake in highway projects.

It also objected to the proposal to allow concessionaires to defer premium payment if case of undue financial stress. The two bodies are also divided over pursuing over Rs 16,000 crore Delhi-Jaipur expressway-—while the Plan panel believes it should be fasttracked, the ministry feels it should not be given preference over other expressway projects since it is not workable on the build-own-transfer model and would require innovation in terms of financial modelling to make it viable.

In July this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Eastern Peripheral expressway, along with other key infrastructure projects, would get focussed attention. He directed that the much-delayed 192-km eastern peripheral expressway be fasttracked by the road ministry with assistance of the Planning Commission deputy chairman.

Although the 11th Plan had proposed 18,000 km of expressways to ease traffic congestion on the national highways, little progress has been made.
The Planning Commission has said there should be an independent body to oversee the development of expressways in the country.

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