1. It gives me great pleasure to be present today for the foundation stone laying ceremony for construction of Railway over bridge on Amravati bypass under Talegaon-Amravati section in the State of Maharashtra. All of you are aware that the Government is implementing the national highway development project (NHDP) which primarily involves widening of existing highways to 4/6 lanes under various phases of the project. Two main programmes in the project involve the Golden Quadrilateral and the North South East West Corridor. The alignment of the East West Corridor was selected to link the eastern most and the western most areas of the country. However, there is another shorter East West Corridor connecting the States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chittisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The NH 6 corridor has a length of 1,940 kms and connects the major ports of Kolkata and Hazira. Stretches of NH – 6 are under various stages of development and widening of this highway may see the development of a Central East West Corridor with the potential to be the corridor of commerce.
2. The biggest stakeholder in highway development is the public. Quite often the infrastructure projects are implemented with little say for the public. As all of you are aware, demands for a citizen’s charter and appropriate legislation on the same are imminent. NHAI however, has taken the initiative to involve the public in the highway development process through an interactive face book account. Citizens can register their complaints in the face book wall of NHAI and we have issued instructions to all concerned to take necessary action on such complaints and provide timely replies to the citizens. So far more than 4 lakh persons have visited this site and about 3,000 have registered themselves. Under NHDP we have taken a conscious decision to increase transparency and accountability and accordingly e-tendering and e-procurement have been introduced. Today all our tenders including request for qualification (RFQ) are being hosted on the e-tendering portal. A secure and transparent process has been developed and all the registered users are able to participate in the e-tendering process. The bidders can view the opening of bids online. They shall also be able to view the results of tendering process as soon as the same is made public.
3. An aspect of highway development which is a cause of great concern today is the number of accidents on our highways. We have adopted a holistic approach involving legislation, engineering, education and management to tackle this problem. Road Safety Audit has been completed for more than 5,000 kms. NHAI has engaged Safety Consultants for 55 projects covering 5364 kms. Appointment of Safety consultants are also being taken up for further 18 projects covering 1640 kms.
4. One of the most sensitive issues in infrastructure development today is land acquisition. The country has seen agitations by farmers over perceived inadequacy of compensation, resettlement and rehabilitation. Land acquisition for national highways however, stands on a different footing. We acquire only a small strip of land along the highway for widening of the road. Studies have shown that development of highway brings significant direct and indirect benefits to the people settled on both sides of the highway. Consequently, except for areas with dense ribbon development, we have faced least resistance in acquisition of land for highway projects in various parts of the country. In the current financial year 7800 hectares of land has already been acquired and taken under possession till November, 2011 as compared to a total acquisition, in possession, of 8533 hectares in 2010-11 and 6244 hectares acquired in 2009-10.
5. In the State of Maharashtra 4/6 laning has been completed for 1,222 kms and is in progress in 745 kms. NHDP aims at providing connectivity to all major or important cities in a State and the State of Maharashtra is no exception. In keeping with the objective of faster development we have endeavored to accelerate the award of projects and in this year we are on course to award about 7300 kms length of projects. The projects that are being taken up now include projects for widening of highways in the hinterland under NHDP Phase IV. Coupled with the development of village roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, these projects are expected to catalyze the development of areas in remote corners of the country. Let us all await these projects and look forward to a brighter and better tomorrow.