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Now, repair before you declare again

Speaking at the ‘Leadership Summit’ of a prominent news media organisation, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said that the government is looking at ways to raise funds for road constructions. One such option, he said, would go along the lines of selling securities backed by future toll collections from national highways to finance road constructions.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is expected to earn Rs 6,000 crore of toll income in 2014 and Rs 10,000 crore in the next, according to Gadkari. The minister went onto add that if he could securitise this amount, the government would rake in Rs 1,20,000 crore, without offering any explanation behind his calculations. Decreasing private sector investment in the highway construction sector has resulted in a shortage of funds. Raising the bar on foreign direct investment in road construction has also been mooted as an option to raise funds. The paucity of funds comes at an inconvenient time for many National Highway projects, which have suffered from poor execution, maintenance and bureaucratic indifference.

A lack of clarity has emerged between the State and central agencies, which has resulted in delays on proposed repair work on various highways. One such example is the delay in the reconstruction work of the Shiradi Ghat, which forms the vital link between the coast and the hinterland on the Bangalore-Mangalore National Highway. Besides the lack of clarity between state and central agencies, many of these National Highways were poorly constructed, owing to rampant corruption and an indifferent bureaucracy. Riddled with potholes, the Mannuthy-Wadakkunchery stretch of National Highway-47 in Kerala is one such example. Reconstruction on this project continues to suffer from strenuous bottlenecks. Gadkari and his ministry, in collaboration with State agencies must conduct repairs on these long-suffering National Highways, before they go onto clear new projects.
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