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Gadkari lens on highways

Ranchi, June 22: Jharkhand will present its case with other states before Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari during his maiden review of held-up national highway revamp projects.

This is first meeting of its kind held by Gadkari after the Narendra Modi government stormed to the Centre with a landslide win.

Today, NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) chairman R.P. Singh met NHAI project implementation unit (PIU) heads of states.

“Today, we took part in a meeting with NHAI chairman and other senior officials. Tomorrow, a meeting is scheduled with the Union minister (Gadkari),” confirmed Awdhesh Kumar, project director of NHAI’s Ranchi PIU.

Jharkhand’s dicey highway stretches, where widening has been proposed, include Barhi-Hazaribagh, Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur and Ranchi-Jamshedpur (Ranchi-Rargaon-Mahulia).

Barhi-Hazaribagh road project to widen to four lanes, started a couple of years ago by an Abhijeet Group company, but got stalled midway due to financial and clearance issues. Now, Abhijeet Group is no longer involved and the financial institution needs to engage a new partner construction company to complete the project under public-private partnership basis. Barhi is a point along NH-2 (Calcutta-Delhi highway, also known as Grand Trunk Road) from where begins NH-33, Jharkhand’s lifeline. It ends at Baharagora, crossing Hazaribagh-Ramgarh-Ranchi-Bundu-Jamshedpur-Ghatshila stretches.

So far, only a small stretch between Hazaribagh and Ranchi outskirts has four lanes. The budget of the pending Barhi-Hazaribagh 40-km-long project has been estimated around Rs 400 crore.

The 160km, Rs 1,497-crore Ranchi-Jamshedpur widening project that started in early 2013 is scheduled to end by June 2015. But given the “slow pace” of execution by Madhucon Projects Limited, NHAI unsure of the deadline.

The widening project covering Mahulia-Baharagora-Kharagpur road, part of highways in Jharkhand and Bengal, has been a problem child since inception two years ago.

Calcutta-based Simplex Infrastructure was appointed concessionaire for the Rs 927-crore project, but work did not start amid pending forest clearances. Simplex even approached the NHAI, requesting they be allowed to back out.

It is likely that the mega project of widening the Barwadda-Aurangabad stretch into six lanes will also be taken up tomorrow. The stretch falls under NH-2 (Grand Trunk Road) and is spread across Jharkhand and Bihar. Hyderabad-based KMC was appointed concessionaire for the Rs 2,500-crore project, but the firm backed out reportedly due to pending forest clearances. Jharkhand will also demand revamp of NH-23 (Chas-Ramgarh), NH-32 (Govindpur-Chas-Purulia) and NH-31 (Barhi-Rajauli), among others.

Reports from Delhi suggest the change of guard at the Centre prompted the NHAI to look at drafting a note seeking an overhaul of the existing model concession agreement that sets terms of the contract.

Concessionaires, lenders and industry outfits have demanded a re-look at the agreement to address disputes, cost hike and other issues, hoping for fresh optimism in the sector.