Dedicated unit proposed in NHAI to focus on operation and maintenance of highway stretches

NEW DELHI: Road transport ministry has made a proposal to the PMO for setting up of a dedicated Corridor Management Unit (CMU) in the NHAI to focus on operation and maintenance of highway stretches as length of widened NH has doubled in the past 10 years. As per projection, this will touch 89,900 km by 2037 and 1.27 lakh km by 2047.
The setting up of CMU, which will focus on end-to-end management of NH stretches, is crucial considering that the highway development is likely to reach a saturation level in the next 14-15 years and NHAI staff need to be trained for operation and maintenance of the stretches.
The road transport ministry is readying the major organisational reforms and completing processes of consultations for both strengthening of NHAI and restructuring of NHIDCL, an entity responsible for highway development in hilly and north-eastern states. Sources said during the current poll season, infrastructure ministries, including road and housing ministries are making good use of time in completing the preparatory works so that work can start at full speed after the new govt takes charge in June.
They added that the housing and urban affairs ministry is completing the process of roll out of different flagship programmes such as PM e-Bus Scheme and finalisation of the Delhi Master Plan. Sources said top PMO officials have also been holding regular review meetings on infrastructure projects and they are also visiting some of the sites.
TOI has learnt that in its presentation to the PMO, the road transport ministry has proposed strengthening NHAI considering that it plans to bid out another 60,555 km of NHs for development. “After 14-15 years, our focus will be more on managing the stretches and maintenance and we have to get ready for this,” a source said.
The ministry has proposed increasing the sanctioned staff strength, especially in technical posts to meet the work requirement in the next 13-15 years and to increase the NHAI permanent cadre to 90% of the total sanction to “build continuity and deep expertise” in road management. In the current regime, half of the employees are on deputation.
The ministry has flagged that staff on deputation typically serve for a fixed term before returning to their parent organisations and this leads to a lack of long-term commitment to NHAI’s projects and goals. It has said that projects requiring long-term oversight suffer from discontinuity. The ministry has also pointed to the problem of limited accountability in case of default or non-compliance as there is limitation on disciplinary action to be taken on staff on deputation.
In the case of NHIDCL, the ministry has pointed to how the entity has no regular cadre and the deputation scheme is not attracting enough talent. Moreover, employees on contract are being filled with retired govt personnel only and there is no provision for professionals to be taken on lateral entry basis for fixed tenure contracts.
It has proposed having a cadre for the entity with 50% being recruited directly and remaining half on deputation. The ministry has also sought engaging contractual professionals, both retired and from the market, for better functioning of the organisation.

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