New Delhi: The government has set a deadline of 15 February to resolve the issues stalling highway projects worth ₹ 30,000 crore, including fund crunch, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said. The remark assumes significance as 14 projects worth ₹ 30,000 crore are still stuck despite a marathon meeting of bankers and developers last week to arrive at a solution and with some of these facing termination.
“We have set a deadline of 15 days to solve all issues of the stuck 14 highway projects worth about ₹ 30,000 crore," Road transport and highways minister Gadkari told PTI. The projects are stuck due to various issues such as land acquisition, forest and environment clearances, railway over-bridge problems, utility shifting, litigations, delayed decisions and financial problems.
When the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) took reins of the government, there were as many as 384 stuck highway projects on account of issues like land acquisition, delay in forest and environment clearances, litigations, equity crunch etc. “Our efforts led to rolling out of majority of the 384 projects while we had to terminate 41 schemes. Of the remaining 21 languishing projects, issues have been solved for seven while we are confident to resolve issues with remaining 14 within a fortnight," Gadkari said.
Meanwhile, the government is actively considering to terminate seven to eight of the remaining projects, an official said. This includes the Panvel-Indapur stretch in Maharashtra, financed by the State Bank of India where the developer “does not have equity of ₹ 40 crore to access ₹ 157 crore of lending", the official said, adding that they suspect fund diversion.
Another project facing termination pertains to the Rohtak-Jind section in Haryana where “fund diversion" is suspected, the official said. Yet another project facing termination threat is the Rimoli-Roxy-Rajamunda stretch in Odisha where the developer “wants cost escalation and extension," he said.
The government is also suspecting “fund diversion" in the Walajapet-Poonamallee in Tamil Nadu where arrears of additional concession fee/premium accumulated to ₹ 289 crore, he added. A top official last month had said that banks were “happily over-financing highway projects" and virtually “killed" them and “if developers and bankers fail to mend their ways and initiate correctives to roll out projects, the government will start terminating these.
The projects relate to key national highways in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The stuck projects belong to players like Larsen & Toubro, HCC, Gammon, Madhucon, Soma and Essel Ifra, among others, while the list of lenders includes top names like SBI, Punjab National Bank and Bank of India.