New Delhi: Call it the highway to nowhere.
It has taken six years for a four-lane, nine-kilometre stretch of the Tumkur bypass road in Karnataka, part of an ambitious national highway project, to be built by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
That translates into a kilometre of new road a year.
Another four kilometres needs to be built before the project is finished, though the authority is hopeful it will be done in three months.
NHAI officials admit the Tumkur project could be one of the slowest work-in-progress on the Golden Quadrilateral, originally scheduled to be finished in just two years.
Highway-construction projects across the quadrilateral have been running behind schedule. At the moment, only the Delhi-Mumbai stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral network has been completed. The Kolkata-Chennai (93% completed) and the Delhi-Kolkata (89% completed) stretches require more work.
While the Mumbai-Chennai leg is 96% complete, seven out of eight projects that need to be wrapped up are in Karnataka, and all are delayed by several years.
Meanwhile, the state also accounts for three out of the seven contracts that have already been terminated in the entire project. Ironically, the Union minister of state for highways, K.H. Muniyappa, is from Karnataka.
The minister was unavailable for comment.
Highway contractors carrying out projects in the state say the highway authority is to blame, as it did not take possession of the relevant land on time.
“We did not get the land on time and so we had to construct roads on an ‘as-and-when’ basis,” said a contractor who wished to remain anonymous.
Farmers in some parts of the state had also protested the highway projects, saying they did not have access to their fields on the other side of the highway.
The Tumkur bypass was awarded to A.L. Sudershan & Co. in December 2001 and was given a December 2003 deadline.
“The contractor... had faced some cash-flow problems to such an extent that he was unable to continuously pump money into the project,” said a highway authority official who also did not want to be named.