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Highways Min spending 60 pc short of FY'10 expenditure target

NEW DELHI: Reflecting a sluggish growth in construction of National Highways, the Surface Transport Ministry could utilise just about 40 percent of the Rs 30,000 crore allocated for 2009-10. Despite the inability to meet the target, the Ministry, however, plans an annual borrowing of Rs 20,000 crore over the next 15 years to fund its ambitious programme of building 20 kilometers of road a day. According to the Planning Commission's report on highways development for 2009-10, the Ministry spent only Rs 11,608 crore in 2009-10 against a target of Rs 29,934.67 crore under various phases of the National Highways Development Project (NHDP). No comments could be obtained from the Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath on the issue. The report further said that no expenditure was made under NHDP phases IV, VI, and VII for which it had earmarked a target to spend Rs 130 crore, Rs 403 crore and Rs 1199 crore respectively. NHDP phase V, as per the Planning Commission report, saw a dismal performance with meagre Rs 506 crore expenditure out of a target to spend Rs 7011 crore during the fiscal. Likewise, phases I, II and III saw poor utilisation with only Rs 863 crore, Rs 6,644 crore and Rs 3,595 crore against a target of Rs 1,553 crore, Rs 10,368 crore and Rs 9,271 crore respectively. In spite of the inability of the ministry to utilise funds fully, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Chairman Brijeshwar Singh last week said that the Authority needs to borrow up to Rs 20,000 crore every year for the next 15 years to implement road projects worth over Rs 9 lakh crore in PPP till 2031-32. The Planning Commission has already lowered its target for construction of roads under the NHDP scheme to 2,500 km for the current fiscal from 3,165 km in the previous year, which saw construction of only 2009 km. The plan panel also fixed the target for award of projects for construction of roads during 2010-11 at 9,000 km, down from 9,806 km in the previous fiscal. Last year, the Road Ministry awarded projects for construction of only 2,609 km of roads under the NHDP and Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in the North- Eastern Region (SARDP-NE). Fixing the target, the panel also made it clear that it will monitor the progress of projects on a quarterly basis in the current fiscal.