NHAI vs. Delhi Metro

NH-2 Delhi to Kolkata

I have been following the two projects for a long time. I see Delhi Metro working in Noida, and get convinced of its world-class professionalism. Hardly one can assess the amount of confidence it would have given to the technocrats and project managers of the country. I don’t know if it has created some intellectual properties in form of patented technologies. However, Sreedharan has certainly become one of the best CEO managers in the world, and interestingly with his age in 70s, when American management gurus have made experienced managers beyond 60 or even younger ones all over the world retire and replaced by younger ones in 40s.

At the same time, the progress of NHAI projects has been dismal, particularly in last four years. Everywhere I go, I make it a point to go by road to see the progress and quality of the construction work going on almost in every part of the country. I have been writing on the issue quite often too. I cherish a wish to drive all along the GQ and NS and EW corridor expressways during my lifetime and see my country. However, the NHAI is missing all the time schedules promised. Why is this difference? Perhaps its remaining strictly under the minister’s control is the main reason. NHAI head might not be having the same autonomy. But with a proven model of Delhi Metro, why couldn’t Mr. Man Mohan Singh go for the similar operation management and/or appoint a CEO of the caliber of Sreedharan for NHAI?

I have judged performance of NHAI through a different tool. NHAI under UPA made one change in its web content that clearly indicates its intention and the officer responsible for doing that should be named. In its chain diagrams, it removed the estimated dates of completion of various segments that were designed and followed till NDA ruled. It was done so that no one can point out at NHAI’s failure to meet the time frame. It hardly bothers about the anomalies that its information on the web provides. The map of the expressway connecting New Delhi to Kolkata as on April 30, 2008 gives a figure of only 34 kms as incomplete or under implementation. However, when I go to its chainage diagram for the Delhi-Kolkata on NH-2, I find hundreds of kms and many segments still shown ‘under implementation’. Why is it so? Can some one responsible in NHAI and the transport ministry, explain?

I wish some one goes along the expressways and write a book for people who shall like to see India following the routes. Perhaps, the speed of progress confirms that at least my wish to do that will remain unfulfilled. After Satyendra Dubey murder, it became known that NHAI projects suffer from blatant corruption and even the quality of the construction is far from the world-class standard that it claimed once to achieve. It would have worked hard to make it more transparent and involved institutes such as IITs or CRRI more intensively.

I feel bad, as just this one single infrastructure project, if properly executed, would have taken India pretty ahead and added to sustainable overall growth. I call it a project of national importance but the government doesn’t think so, nor treat so. It is still not late for the government to see that the timeframe is not sacrificed.

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