NEW DELHI: A parliamentary panel has raised concern over the whopping Rs 97,115 crore debt servicing liability on National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and has asked the authority to explore restructuring of existing debt and look for options to raise long-term funds. The committee has also flagged how 888 road projects with total investment of Rs 3.15 lakh crore involving cumulative length of 27,665 kms have been delayed.
“Delays in completion of ongoing road projects cause a huge loss of time and greater consumption of fuel, to countless number of road users across the country, besides the increase in the project cost that has to be incurred by the ministry,” the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture has said. It has recommended to the road transport and highways ministry to focus and prioritise completion of ongoing delayed projects instead of announcing and awarding new road projects in the country.
It has also taken note of how Maharashtra has “abnormally” high number of delayed road projects compared to other states.
On the increasing debt liability of NHAI, the 31-member panel, in its report submitted to the Parliament, has noted that the debt servicing liability of the highways authority for the next three financial years are even higher than the estimates that the road transport and highways ministry had provided to the committee during its examination of Demands for Grants for 2020-21. “The committee recommends that NHAI may prioritise the completion of its delayed 27 road projects to prevent further cost escalation in such projects. The committee further recommends the NHAI to explore restructuring of its existing debt and prepare proposals to raise long-term funds through the upcoming Development Financial Institution announced in the Budget Speech (2021-22) by the finance minister,” the report said.
The panel has also flagged how there has been less for maintenance and swachhta plan during 2021-22. It said whereas the budgetary allocation at the BE 2021-22 stage is approximately 84.2% of the demand projected, the allocation under the head “Maintenance of NHs including Swachhta Action Plan” comes to only about 52% of the requirement projected by the ministry. “The committee would like to know the reasons behind the large 48% gap between the requirement and allocation made under this head, when the overall gap between the requirement and allocation made to the ministry is only about 16%,” it said.