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Bharatmala project gets PIB nod, awaits cabinet clearance

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-07-2017 Jyotika Sood

New Delhi: The Public Investment Board (PIB) has signed off on the road ministry’s ambitious Rs10-trillion Bharatmala project.

With this, the project with the largest-ever outlay for a government road scheme is just a step away from clearance of the Union cabinet. 

The project includes development of around 51,000km of road length comprising economic corridors, coastal roads and expressways and will be implemented in phases. 

In the first phase, 29,000km will be developed at a cost of Rs5.5 trillion. 

“The board gave clearance to the project in a meeting held last fortnight (in June) and now the cabinet note for the project will be put up before cabinet for clearance,”  said a government official aware of the clearance on condition of anonymity.

The project was referred to the PIB in May after the Prime Minister’s Office felt the project should be vetted by the board before being put up to the cabinet. 

The board is chaired by the expenditure secretary and includes secretaries of economic affairs, statistics and programme implementation, environment and forests, and a NITI Aayog representative as members. 

Queries emailed to the spokesperson for the ministry of road transport and highways remained unanswered.

A senior road ministry official on condition of anonymity said, “We haven’t received the PIB minutes of the meetings yet but have heard about the development. The cabinet note will be prepared only after the minutes of the meetings are received.” 

Bharatmala will replace National Highways Development Project (NHDP) launched in 1998 by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the scheme is expected to be completed by this year with just 10,000km of highway construction left under it.

The road ministry has already prepared a road map for the project. According to the plans, most of the project under Bharatmala will be implemented using engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) model and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will be given full autonomy irrespective of project cost. 

However, in case projects are under public-private partnership, after a certain amount will need clearance from the road ministry.

Under Bharatmala, the road ministry also plans to undertake a network of economic corridors in the country and a detailed project report on these has already been prepared by the global consultancy firm AT Kearney. AT Kearney has identified 44 economic corridors for development by the road ministry and these include Mumbai-Cochin-Kanyakumari, Bengaluru-Mangaluru, Hyderabad-Panaji and Sambalpur-Ranchi. These economic corridors plan to open up India’s hinterland to development.

Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, director at Crisil Infrastructure Advisory, says the programme will chart out the next wave of highway development in the country and give boost to associated industries like cement and steel.

“The freight and logistics industry will immensely benefit and combined with the implementation of GST (goods and services tax), this programme will facilitate in bringing down the logistics cost and make ‘Made- in-India’ goods more competitive,” he said.

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