States not maintaining highways approved as future NHs: Centre


New Delhi: The Centre has pulled up state governments for not investing in the upkeep of state roads that have been given “in-principle” approval to be declared as national highways (NHs).

“The responsibility for maintenance of any such state road approved in-principle as new NHs rests entirely with state governments until they are notified as NHs and entrusted with implementing agencies (such as NHAI, NHIDCL, state PWDs, etc) after state governments conveyed their no objection for handing over assets thereof pursuant to notifying roads as NHs,” the road transport and highways ministry said in a letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by ET.

The letter to state principal secretaries and secretaries of all state public works departments states that “low priority” is being assigned in many states for proper upkeep, maintenance and development of state roads approved “in-principle” as NHs, perhaps on the pretext that since these may eventually be upgraded as NHs and consequentially development and maintenance obligations thereof would be vested with the central government, it may not be worthwhile to spend funds on the same by the state governments.

Highways

The Centre, from time to time, declares state roads as national highways on receiving proposals from the state governments. Around 53,000 kms of state roads have been given “inprinciple” approval for conversion to national highways, subject to outcome of their detailed project reports.

The highways ministry is also in the process of finalising stricter criteria for declaration of state roads as national highways to check this rate of conversion, as the process ultimately increases the liability of the central government. The ministry has asked state governments concerned to comply with the requisite norms for maintenance and development of such state roads.

Most states see no point in wasting money on these highways even if they deteriorate because authorities feel that eventually the central funds will be used, said Manish Agarwal, leader – capital projects and infrastructure, PwC India. “The point of this reminder is that the ‘in-principle’ approval means that the Centre will evaluate these highways, following which there will be a notification,” Agarwal said.





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