New Delhi: The government has decided to appoint Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant as the part-time member of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in order to strengthen implementation of the ambitious infrastructure scheme Bharatmala Pariyojana.

In a gazette notification issued by the ministry of road transport and highways on Monday, the ministry said it has substituted a clause which replaces secretary, department of economic affairs, with CEO of Niti Aayog to take the post.

The authority’s four part-time members are: secretaries department of expenditure, road transport and highways, CEO Niti Aayog and director general (road) and special secretary, MoRTH.

The move comes as the union cabinet while approving Bharatmala Pariyojana had empowered NHAI board to appraise and approve all PPP BOT (Toll) projects, irrespective of the size and cost, where no grant is given to the concessionaire and the construction and maintenance is financed by toll revenues.

Besides, the NHAI board is also empowered to approve all EPC projects. The cabinet also authorized NHAI board to delegate its powers on appraisal and approval of projects within NHAI.

A senior road ministry official on condition of anonymity said, “Inclusion of Niti Aayog CEO is a cabinet decision. It will expedite Bharatmala implementation by easing out processes, addressing concerns at the time of planning and also prioritize projects which are often done when union cabinet refers it to its think tank for their suggestions." Moreover, the Niti Aayog can also bring in state governments’ views on table while implementing the scheme.

Bharatmala Pariyojana is a new umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country. The scheme would look at bridging critical infrastructure gaps by developing economic corridors, inter corridors and feeder routes, national corridor efficiency improvement, border and international connectivity roads, etc. A total of 24,800 km of highways is planned to be developed under the scheme in Phase-I with an estimated cost of Rs535,000 crore over a span of five years.

Welcoming the move, Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner and head, economics, regulatory and policy advisory, KPMG in India says, “There has been explosion of activity in areas of logistic and infrastructure from road perspective. With the high pace of highway construction in the country, it becomes critical for road infrastructure to be well coordinated with rest of national objectives and having CEO Niti Aayog as board member of NHAI would be crucial to provide necessary linkages to multimodal hubs, etc."

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