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Govt to miss highway target but overtake 2017-18 mark

  
  
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  This year, Nitin Gadkari set a target of constructing 16,420km of highways; last year, the ministry built 9,829 km of highways. Last year’s target of construction was around 15,000km of highways at a rate of 41km/day while they could achieve only 27km/day. The ministry of road transport and highways is likely to miss the target of constructing 45km a day of highways this financial year, set for it by roads minister Nitin Gadkari, although going by the current pace of work, it may still overtake last year’s achievement. This year, Gadkari set a target of constructing 16,420km of highways; last year, the ministry built 9,829 km of highways. Last year’s target of construction was around 15,000km of highways at a rate of 41km/day while they could achieve only 27km/day. The current pace of construction from the period of April to October is around 23km a day, according to road ministry officials who asked not to be named. The government had also set a target of awarding works for 20,000km of national highways during the current financial year, which was about 25% more than the 17,055 kilometers awarded during 2017-18. The total length of constructions awarded last year was 2,352km, marginally higher than this year’s 1,999km. “From April to October, we have been able to construct 4,830km of national highways. This is marginally better than the length constructed last year which was 4,085km with a rate of construction of about 19.5km per day,” the official added. Going by last year’s record, construction activity should pick up in the second half of the financial year (June to September are the months when much of India gets rain). “Highway construction during monsoon season is quite slow. From April to November, there were four months out of six months where some part of the country had rains and hence the projects get affected. The results of six months cannot be extrapolated to the year. No doubt the targets are challenging but hopefully everyone in the ministry, financing spectrum, contractor and developers would take up the challenge and we would see much better results than last year,” said Kushal Singh, Partner, Deloitte India. Still, the ministry has managed to construct more highways with every passing year. It did 4,410km in 2014-15, the first year of this government, 6,061km in 2015-16, and 8,200km in 2016-17. “Our ministry is making all out efforts for improving and strengthening the highways network in the country... There will also be focus on completing the detailed project reports of all the “in Principle” declared national highways,” Gadkari had said in April. Gadkari also said that while the focus would be more on construction, the total length awarded would be more than last year. This also comes in the backdrop of the central government’s aim of doubling India’s national highways network to 200,000 lakh km by 2019. “India needs massive infrastructure development up to Rs 50 lakh crore... At this speed, I am confident we will complete construction of 90,000km of national highways,” Union minister for finance Arun Jaitley said during the budget speech in February for the current financial year. The Union budget for 2018-19 pegged the budgetary allocation for the highway ministry at Rs 71,000 crore, up from Rs 61,000 crore allocated during 2017-18. Despite the enhanced budget, a road ministry official said that it has written to the finance ministry seeking more budgetary support. “Sanctioning of funds is slow this year. As per our estimate, we may run out of funds by January, 2019. Keeping this in mind, we have written to the finance ministry seeking extra budgetary support,” another official at the ministry added, asking not to be identified.
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