Bharatmala Project Cost Shoots to Estimated INR 10 Lakh Crore, Confirms Nitin Gadkari
65,000 km highways to be constructed under the project by 2022
The construction of highways has been among the major agendas of Modi-government since 2014. However, land acquisition has emerged as the biggest roadblock for the national highways building program, Bharatmala Pariyojana, which comprises the construction of 65,000 km of highways under its umbrella by 2022.
The Skyrocketing Costs
The project earlier estimated at over INR 5.35 lakh crore would now cost over INR 10 lakh crore due to the heightened charges for acquiring the land, confirmed the minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari. "The total project costing is going up to INR 10 lakh crore," he shared during the question hour in the Rajya Sabha on June 24.
Apparently, Bharatmala has not been allotted a single penny by the finance ministry. Hence, "We are raising money from the market," Gadkari stated. For obtaining money from the capital market, the ministry is making TOT (Toll-Operate-Transfer) model. "We are capitalizing the projects and we are raising funds from the overseas market," he added.
Land Acquisition – The Biggest Roadblock
Citing land acquisition as the main problem in delay of projects, Gadkari expressed that the cost was very high in some states. He assured that some state governments are coming forward to lend a hand to the ministry in easing land acquisition process and bearing its cost, which is helping in early implementation of projects. Moreover, "No project is being awarded without confirming the availability of 80per cent land," he added.
Sharing an anecdote, Gadkari stated that the Uttar Pradesh state government has taken responsibility for giving 50 per cent of the cost for the ring road. "Land acquisition is so much that it is very difficult for the government to bear the cost," he stressed. On the contrary, Kerala would be a serious problem due to skyrocketing land acquisition costs.
The Government's Achievements
Gadkari stressed that projects are not delayed because of land acquisition anymore and the maximum problem in construction is related to DPR (detailed project report). "There were 403 projects pending when Narendra Modi came to power involving a cost of INR 3,85,000 crore," Gadkari boasted calling it a great achievement of Indian government.
"We saved bankers of INR 3 lakh crore of NPAs and now 90 percent of projects are moving fast," he further shared. The first phase of the Bharatmala program approved in 2017 includes construction of 24,800 km of national highways, in addition to 10,000 km of balance road works under the national highways development program. "I am happy to inform that projects of 8,000 kms have already been awarded," Gadkari shared.