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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told top bureaucrats to ensure that all project clearances are obtained and requisite land acquired before rushing into public ceremonies for laying the foundation stone.
The PM said such cornerstone ceremonies had no meaning if the projects were to run into delays. “Foundation stones should only be laid when all approvals are in so that the project is completed within the stipulated time,” sources quoted the PM as saying.
The department’s effort should be directed towards getting the mandatory clearances rather than preparing for the ceremony, he is learnt to have quipped. Delays would eventually lead to the usual story of increase in revised cost estimates for the project, he added.
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The PM’s advisory — twice during the PRAGATI meeting with Secretaries on October 26 — came while reviewing the 82-km long Delhi-Meerut 14-lane Expressway for which Modi laid the foundation stone on December 31 last year amid great fanfare.
The project has been languishing because the National Highway Authority of India realised late that a new bridge (part of the project) over the river Yamuna required clearance from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) as it fell under the municipal limits of the National Capital.
It came to NHAI’s knowledge when the NGT permission became essential for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL) Foundation for the World Culture Festival last March. The NHAI applied for NGT clearance last month and the issue is scheduled for NGT hearing next Tuesday.
The PM has also directed Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha to monitor the expressway project while pushing its completion date by nine months to December 2018. However, he has directed that the “Cabinet Secretary should review to ensure coordination so that project gets completed within the scheduled time”.
The Ministries of Road Transport & Highways, Environment and the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have been told to “expeditiously complete forest clearance required for the project”.
A similar situation had emerged at the PRAGATI meeting on September 28 while reviewing the four-laning of 44 km Rampur-Rudrapur segment of the Rampur-Rudrapur-Kathgodam highway which was launched by Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.
The segment – part of the 93-km project connecting Rampur in Uttar Pradesh to Kathgodam in Uttrakhand – is stuck as 80 percent of the land has to be made available to the concessionaire as pre-requisite for fixing the appointed date.
Gadkari rushed into laying the foundation stone last February in an attempt to gain publicity before the UP assembly elections in 2017. The National Highways Authority of India approval came nearly two months later on March 31.