NHAI to bypass states where land acquisition is a roadblock

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has decided to bypass states that are slow on acquiring land for national highway projects. Barring Goa, none of the states that lag behind in land acquisition are governed by the Congress.

"The ministry and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have decided not to push projects where land acquisition is a problem and states are not cooperating. Instead, we will fast-track and bid out those roads where land acquisition is complete and all state-level clearances are in place," Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath told The Indian Express.

Last year, the ministry had decided to complete acquisition of at least 80 per cent of the land before awarding a project in order to prevent work getting stalled midway.

According to the data available with NHAI till February 2010, as well as the feedback obtained from the state authorities, road development in Jharkhand, Goa, West Bengal and Bihar were particularly hit because of tardy land acquisition. "We definitely require enhanced support by these states," said NHAI chairman Brijeshwar Singh.

Of these states, Jharkhand fares the worst, with the authority unable to acquire even an inch of land. The reason being that Jharkhand does not even have land revenue records to reflect ownership. "The maps are as old as 1912 and the state government is developing land records by way of physical verification," said a government official. NHAI needs to acquire 685 hectares in the state for various national highway projects.

Till February-end, NHAI was unable to make any progress in acquiring land for road projects in Goa too. About 442 hectares of land needs to be acquired, which could not be done on account of displacement and rehabilitation problems in the densely populated state.

"West Bengal too has been a laggard," said the official. The authority's target in West Bengal is 1,738 hectares, of which it managed to acquire only 88 hectares so far.

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