The dismal performance of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has meant that its dream of constructing 20 kilometres of national highways per day has been shattered. Instead, the authority has had to rest content with laying down merely eight kilometres of national highways per day. This slow pace of implementation of the road projects is quite appalling. Whereas at least 7,000 kilometres of roads should have been constructed in 2012-13 only 2,900 kilometres have been completed so far. With only a percentage of the targeted work having been completed, this brings up the question of irresponsibility on the part of the authorities vested with the responsibility of the proper implementation of the road projects. Moreover the NHAI has been dismal in awarding projects for construction. It has been able to award a little over 1,000 kilometres stretch as against the original target of 9,500 kilometres. This is not to suggest that some of the reasons for the delay in the construction of the roads and the award of projects, such as delays in getting environmental clearances, problems with land acquisition, and market related conditions, are not valid. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) aspect, which is the basis of many of the projects, also leaves much to be desired. The private players are vested with some of the most important roles for improving the efficiency of work and the speedy implementation of projects. However, roads are not being prepared efficiently which also impacts on the quality of the roads. The slew of allegations of corruption with regard to contracts is yet another negative factor.
India as a country is heavily dependent on roads for transportation and connectivity. The government has undertaken the National Highways Development Project, which is being implemented in phases and envisages the improvement of more than about 54,500 km of arterial routes of National Highways network to international standards. However, the ever-increasing demand for vehicles and more road space and the slow paced development of roads present a constant challenge. The major problems such as increasing congestion on roads and poor quality of travelling for those who use the roads also remain constant. The NHAI needs to seriously pull up its socks now.