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Why a better, wider NH-33 is a long way off
- Rs 625cr project to four-lane Hazaribagh-Ranchi needs a nod from the new government

Ranchi, May 24: The fate of the Rs 625 cr project to widen the crucial 75km Hazaribagh-Ranchi stretch of NH-33 is now stuck in Delhi where the new UPA government will have to give a go-ahead.

The much delayed project, which involves four-laning of one of the most vital road links of the state, was being executed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). It is the first in Jharkhand to be executed under the BOT-annuity scheme. The NHAI has already decided on a consortium of ILFS Transportation Networks Ltd & Punj Lloyd to take up the work after it was adjudged the lowest bidder in February.

“But now we are unable to issue a work contract as a cabinet nod is necessary,” said NHAI general manager Lt-Col. Chandan Vatsa. And this despite the Election Commission having giving its go-ahead to the project since it had been delayed for many years.

“The EC observed that an approval can be given. But the file was pending with the Union cabinet which did not take it up during its last meeting,” added Vatsa.

Sources at the Union ministry of road transport and highways said under the BOT-annuity scheme, the Centre would pay Rs 63 crore every six month as annuity for the next 15 years to the consortium. The concession period will be for a maximum of 18 years considering the two-and-half-year time frame to complete the work.

The project to widen NH-33 — considered the lifeline of the state — between Hazaribagh and Ranchi has been hanging fire for several years now. Earlier, at least three tenders were invited on BOT-toll basis, but those proved futile.

The NHAI, which functions under the Union ministry of road transport and highways, had invited a global expression of interest (known as request for qualification in technical parlance) from construction majors for the fourth time.

The last date to respond was August 29, 2007.

Earlier, efforts to finalise the project through BOT-toll basis proved futile thrice with no one responding to pre-qualification bids, apparently because of major concerns about the state’s crumbling law and order situation — not surprising since Maoist terror is often directed at contractors and their engineers working in Jharkhand. Under BOT-toll, contractors awarded the work are to invest the entire project cost and realise it by collecting toll for, approximately, the next 30 years. This is unlike BOT-annuity, under which even though the construction company invests the entire project costs, a fixed annual sum from the government ensures it recovers its investment.

The four-laning project is a part of phase-IIIA of the national highway development programme.

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