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NH-33 widening on Gadkari radar

Ranchi, June 24: The long-pending national highway (NH) projects of Jharkhand can now hope for speedy execution after a prod from the central government.

Late last evening, Union minister of road transport and highways (MoRTH) Nitin Gadkari held a meeting to review the status of the projects, a majority of which are either progressing at a tardy pace or lying stalled, and urged the agencies involved to speed up work.

Ranchi-based regional officer of MoRTH Sadre Alam, project director of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in Ranchi Awadhesh Kumar, senior ministry officials and other representatives of NHAI attended the meeting, where Gadkari was apprised about the status of revamp projects being undertaken by the national road agency in Jharkhand.

The fate of key projects like the Barhi-Hazaribagh portion of NH-33, the widening of Ranchi-Jamshedpur road into four lanes and widening of Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur road was discussed.

Gadkari is believed to have asked the NHAI officials to terminate the agreement with Nagpur-based Abhijeet Group, which was executing the Barhi-Hazaribagh project. Construction has remained stalled for over a year now over finance and clearance issues.

At present, Abhijeet Group is no longer involved with the project, but NHAI and the financial agency engaged in the project need to official terminate the agreement before appointing a new company.

“The minister has asked the NHAI to mutually settle the issues and terminate the agreement so that a new agency can be appointed for speedy execution of the project,” Alam told The Telegraph.

Regarding slow progress of widening work between Ranchi and Jamshedpur (up to Mahulia), concessionaire Madhucon Project Limited has been asked to pull up socks.

“The representative of the company, owned by a politician, tried to convince the minister and NHAI officials that they were progressing smoothly. But they didn’t seem convinced,” a source said.

The deadline to complete the Rs 1,500-crore project is June 2015, but NHAI is skeptical.

Another pending project — widening of Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur road that is part of NH-33 in Jharkhand and NH-6 in neighbouring Bengal — also featured in the talks. Calcutta-based construction major Simplex Infrastructure, which was appointed concessionaire for the Rs 927-crore project, declared that it would not be able to do the work mainly due to financial constraints.

Discussions were also held on the proposed widening of NH-2 (Grand Trunk Road) between Barwadda and Aurangabad into six-lanes. Authorities accepted that the Rs 2,500-project was proceeding very slow, while Hyderabad-based KMC recently backed out.

However, the status of roads executed by the NH wing of the state road construction department (which are funded by MoRTH, but not under NHAI’s control) could not be discussed.