* Major drive to construct 10,000 kms highway at Rs 1 lakh crore
* Small packages to involve local contractors, 10 per cent advance & training on offer
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, June 30: The Centre has decided to award contractors of the Northeast Rs 1 lakh crore highway construction projects involving completion of 10,000 km in five years. Since contractors in the region are not big and capable enough to execute projects on such mega scales, the Central government is also planning to build up capacity of local contractors, engineers and other stakeholders for infrastructure projects.
Revealing this in Guwahati today, Union Road Transport, Highways and Shipping minister Nitin Gadkari pointed out that hitherto contractors from Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and other states have been awarded mega contracts earmarked for the development of NE states. But now in a bid to change this state of affairs, the Modi government is planning to relax norms and break up mega contracts into small packages to get local contractors on board.
“I have asked the norms to be relaxed if necessary without compromising on quality, train local contractors, make small packages, give 10 per cent advance so that more can get work. Encourage, not discourage,” Gadkari said.
The involvement of local stakeholders, he said, would result in inclusive development of the region through creation of jobs and opening up of avenues. “The local contractors are not being able to participate in the road construction process as they cannot fulfill the technical and fincial component,” he explained.
Gadkari was speaking on the occasion of the iuguration of a two-day conference in Guwahati on ‘Key Challenges in Highways and Infrastructure Construction in the Northeastern Region and Use of Innovative Technologies and Materials’.
The process for awarding contracts should be transparent, corruption-free, cost saving, time-bound and quality-controlled with e-tender, the Union minister said.
Gadkari also pointed out that bitumen topped roads in the Northeast are soon degraded due to the long rainy season. His ministry has therefore drawn up plans to lay all-weather concrete roads in NE states, but cement companies in the region have already hiked prices to capitalize on the expected demand for cement for road construction projects here.
“Cement companies in this region ought to know that the Central government itself has ten cement factories and we can bring over vast quantities of cement here to push down and stabilize prices. We have enough funds at our disposal. Already we have booked 95 lakh tonnes of cement to start highway construction projects here. So if local cement companies try to take advantage by hiking prices, they will get their fingers burnt”, Gadkari warned.
“The government will introduce a bill in the next session of parliament to develop 101 main rivers across the country as inland waterways. Of these, five inland waterways will be taken up for development first, including the Brahmaputra,” Gadkari said.
Speaking about the huge tourism potential of the region, the Union minister focused upon the role that inland water transport can play in ferrying tourists across the rivers here at highly competitive rates. However, once a ship malfunctions or gets damaged, it has to be hauled all the way to shipyards in Kolkata for repairs.
“It takes on an average Rs 3 lakh to repair a ship and Rs 30 lakh to haul it to Kolkata and back,” Gadkari said. In this context, the Union minister announced a Rs 50 crore scheme to build up a ship repair facility at the Pandu shipyard.
On innovative technologies to be introduced for building up infrastructure in the Northeast, the Union minister said appropriate technology will be introduced for accelerating the pace of Infrastructure building. Gadkari further said that infrastructure development will remove poverty in the region as it has a multiplier effect on the economy.
Speaking at the conference, Ajanta Neog claimed that Assam PWD has ‘an illustrious record and experience in building roads’. She also pointed out that her department has been efficiently maintaining 1,000 km long highways in the State since 2005.
The conference was attended by Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs Sarbanda Sonowal, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, Assam PWD Minister Ajanta Neog, as well as representatives from the other NE states. Besides them, representatives of the World Bank, JICA, ADB, top contractors and engineers and other stakeholders participated in the conference.
This conference is being organized by the tiol Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd under the guidance of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and in association with the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.