India’s independence had an unfortunate fallout. Our partition left a huge impact on the country’s Northeast. The NE region got practically cut off and dismembered from the rest of the country. The only link it had was through the Siliguri Corridor popularly known as the Chicken Neck area in North West Bengal. While this was so, the road links to our neighbours on the East also remained tenuous and therefore became a huge impediment for trade with them. Any forward movement on our ‘Look & Act East’ resolve therefore required establishing strong and robust transportation networks in that region. Such networks would have helped us in forging strong trade and people-people linkages with our neighbours on the East. Development of these networks however could not keep pace with the average improvements happening in the rest of the country. While lack of resources, focus and not so strong local techno-managerial capacities were arguably the main contributing factors, mountainous and difficult terrain accompanied by high rainfall conditions also played their part as the major limiting factors. Because of these, application of conventional mainstream methods of road construction to the NE produced meagre results, qualitatively and also quantitatively as the working window available for construction in the NE was very limited. NE is endowed with rich natural resources and lack of connectivity prevented such resources to be harnessed and meaningfully deployed. Because of this, the local population was also suffering for want of economic opportunities and in many cases; this also resulted in anti-establishment feeling and militancy. Strategically, poor infrastructure and connectivity also posed major challenges to the security interests of our country. Realising the sluggish pace of implementation of infrastructure projects, the Government of India decided to fast pace the construction of the National Highways and other infrastructure in the North Eastern Region and Strategic Areas of the country through the SARDP-NE programme.
However, the real acceleration began with the advent of NHIDCL, which was mandated to act as the specialised agency to implement the projects in the hilly areas of our country especially in the North-East. The National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) was incorporated on 18 July 2014 as a Public Sector Undertaking under the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India. Since its inception, NHIDCL has a fully functional corporate office and has set up by now, thirteen branch offices in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Nepal. NHIDCL has been able to fast pace the activities for the construction of highways and development of other infrastructure, not just limited to the North-Eastern region but this now extends to other strategic and border areas of our country.
As of 31 August 2017, the company is handling 225 national highway and other infrastructure development projects covering an approximate length of 11,000 km to be executed at a cost of approximately Rs.1.50 lakh Crore. State wise progress made by NHIDCL can be seen as below:
NHIDCL has taken up 35 road projects spanning a total length of 1034 kms in Arunachal Pradesh. Out of these, 30 projects are under execution at an estimated cost of Rs. 9400 Cr. and remaining 5 projects are at DPR stage. Some of the projects under execution include the Trans-Arunachal highway, Border connectivity projects from Hayuliang-Hawai,Joram-Koloriang and Hunli-Anini roads.
NHIDCL has taken the responsibility for up-gradation and development of a total of 27 road projects covering 993 km at an estimated project cost of Rs. 20,609 crore, which includes NH configuration roads (NH-37, 37A, 52, 52A, 53, 44, 208A and 127B). Out of these, 19 projects are presently under civil execution which covers approx. 478 km at an estimated cost of Rs 8,600 crore. The projects include 4-lane connectivity from Numaligarh to Dibrugarh on NH37, Nagaon to Holongi on NH52 including a bridge on river Brahmaputra near Kaliabhomora.
NHIDCL has been entrusted with 7 projects covering a total length of 573 kms in the state of Tripura at the cost of Rs. 5384 Crore. This includes connectivity from Agartala to Sabroom on NH 44 and a bridge on River Feni for international connectivity to Bangladesh.
The approval from Union Cabinet has been obtained for upgradation of Aizawl to Tuipang section of NH 54 covering a length of 380 km to be built at an estimated cost of Rs5,400 crore has been finalised. The process of land acquisition for the project is nearing completion and civil works are likely to start soon.
The work for 4-laning of NH 39 Dimapur-Kohima stretch of 42.86 km at a cost of Rs 1599 crore are in full swing. The execution of civil work for the much awaited Dimapur-Bypass (Nagaland Portion) of 20.86 Km for Rs. 657 Cr. is going to commence shortly and works for Assam portion are likely to commence by year end.
15 roads of Manipur covering total length of 1750 km costing Rs 20,000 crore has been planned for improvement into 2/4 lane national highway. The approval from Union Cabinet has been obtained for up gradation of existing Imphal-Moreh section of NH 39. Development of alternative Imphal-Moreh Highway is also envisaged. The work for construction of two bridges over Rivers Barak and Makru at an estimated cost of Rs 111 crore has been awarded. Besides the rehabilitation of following roads has already started
- Ukhrul-Toloi-Tadubi (115 km)
- Churachandpur-Tuvai-Singhat (162 km)
- Tamenglong-Khongsang (40 km)
- Imphal-Jiribam (220 km)
NHIDCL is undertaking the up-gradation and construction of 823 km of road network at a cost of 10,824 crore in the state of Meghalaya including 193 km of national highways on NH-40, NH-51and NH-62. It held a series of meetings for fast pacing land acquisition and obtaining forest clearances for implementing five projects covering a length of 317 km at an approximate cost of Rs1,900 crore. Approval of Union Cabinet has been obtained for constructing Tura-Dalu section of NH 51 including Tura bypass covering a length of 51.5 km. The same would be completed with loan assistance from JICA. DPR for two projects on NH-62 and NH-40 are under progress and the same are also proposed to be developed with JICA loan assistance.
NHIDCL has taken up 14 projects covering a length of 909 km at a cost of Rs 5,130 crore out of which 4 projects of length 102 km have been awarded including the work of two laning of Singtam-Rabongla 32 km stretch at an approximate cost of Rs 372 crore and upgradation of Rhenock-Pakyong over a length of 27 km at an estimated cost Rs 447 crore. DPR for the construction of alternative Highway from to Bagrakot via Rishi Menla is at final stages.
NHIDCL has been given 9 projects of road length 760 km to be built at a cost of Rs 8,720 crore out of which the slope protection work on Nalupani landslide and mitigation has been awarded at cost of Rs 38 crore. The DPR for 380 km (Baijnath to Jauljibi and Almora to Karnaprayag) are at final stages. Development of Rudraprayag to Joshimath NH 7 as part of Chardham Development Pariyojna is likely to be awarded during this year.
Jammu & Kashmir
In Jammu & Kashmir, NHIDCL has invited bids for consultancy services for preparation of DPRs for upgradation of Jammu-Akhnoor (4-lane) and Chenani-Khanabal (double lane) roads. The preliminary studies for both the stretches are in progress and alternative alignment options are being explored. NHIDCL has initiated works to provide all weather connectivity to Leh-Ladakh from Srinagar. The work of construction, operation and maintenance of Z-Morh tunnel is under progress at a cost of Rs 2,680 crore. The work on the Zoji La tunnel with an estimated cost of Rs 6,800 crore is likely to be awarded soon.
Andaman & Nicobar Islands
The Company has already awarded 3 projects on the Andaman Trunk covering a length of approximate 83 km to be built at an estimated cost of Rs. 671 crore. The Company is re-inviting bids for preparation of DPRs for constructing either a bridge or an under the sea tunnel between Bamboo Flat to Chatham Island.
NHIDCL has been entrusted with 3 projects covering a total length of 231 km in the state of Himachal Pradesh. All these 3 projects are at DPR stage.
In West Bengal, the Company has completed DPR for preparation connecting Sagar Island with Kakdwip. On the India-Nepal border NHIDCL would be constructing a bridge on the River Mechi with loan assistance from ADB. The Company has already finalised detailed project report for this project and has invited bids and the work would be put for award this year.
NHIDCL’s other initiatives
NHIDCL has taken up the work of Project Management Consultant for the MEA, GOI projects in Nepal. These projects are being executed with an estimated cost of Rs 500 crore. “INAM-PRO +” has been developed by NHIDCL as a Platform for Infrastructure and Materials Providers and is a web-based application (www.inampro.nic.in) for infrastructure and materials providers.It acts as a common platform for infrastructure material providers viz. cement companies, infrastructure providers, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and other stakeholders.
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India embarks on the development and upgradation of highways & other infrastructure projects. In order to make the evaluation process during procurement more objective, user friendly and transparent, “INFRACON” has been developed by NHIDCL as a comprehensive national portal for infrastructure consultancy firms & key personnel. The portal has the facility to host firms &personnel CVs and credentials online and has linkage to Aadhaar & Digi-locker for data validation & purity.
MoRTH has large number of capital works being done by multiple agencies with no single platform for accumulating and integrating data. Every report entailed fresh acquisition of data thereby tiring the giver and the recipient. There was also a need for a single central repository for projects related documentation; papers, photos, videos. Coupled with this was our inability to track projects throughout their life cycle leading to inaccurate measurement of physical & financial progress. Because of this, no project related information was in public domain. In order to address this, there was a need to have an integrated information system that addressed this problem to ensure effective and real time tracking of the Projects. ePACE (Projects Appraisal & Continuing Enhancements) has been designed as an online portal by NHIDCL to meet such challenges.
NHIDCL has developed capabilities and now takes necessary steps to ensure that all safety parameters (proper curves, gradients and no black spots) are followed while finalising the designs for roads, bridges and tunnels. It specialises in methods and designs for protection of ecology and environment in the work areas by bringing new technologies for slope protection, soil stabilisation etc.With a vision to develop local capacities, NHIDCL conducts regular stakeholder consultation including skills development programs to build the capacities of the local contractors and also to introduce to them new and appropriate technologies.
To sum up, NHIDCL has been established as, ‘A Company with a Difference’ carrying hallmark of efficiency, transparency and quality. A large number of infrastructure projects have now been started in almost every North-Eastern State. Many such roads are also part of the economic corridors and the Asian trilateral highways, which would allow trade and culture to flourish with the Southeast Asian nations.
Shri Sanjay Jajju is a 1992 Batch IAS officer of Andhra Cadre.He is currently posted as Director(Finance/ Admin), National Highways & Infrastructure Development Cooperation Limited.