An impression that the Tamil Nadu government was not cooperating with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been made in Parliament by a reply of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari which was unfortunate, Chief Minister M K Stalin wrote to the Centre on Saturday and asserted that it is not true.
Writing to Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Gadkari, Stalin pointed to a request made on the floor of Parliament by Lok Sabha member Dayanidhi Maran recently to him to improve the condition of the existing road stretch from Chennai to Ranipet (NH-4).
"This segment provides vital connectivity from Chennai city and its ports to the industrial clusters in Kanchipuram, Vellore, Ranipet, Hosur and Krishnagiri. The condition of the road is so bad that I had to plan my recent visits to a few districts by train. While the request from our MP was very specific on this important road, we were disappointed with your reply which was very general and non-committal."
Detailing the TN government's steps in connection with various projects, Stalin said: "With all such sincere efforts by the government, it was unfortunate that an impression that the State government was not cooperating with NHAI has been underlined in your reply in the Parliament."
"I assure you that it is not true and we have been trying our best to expedite all major infrastructure projects without discriminating between the projects undertaken by the State and Union governments."
The Chief Minister referred to the Chennai Port to Maduravoyal Elevated Expressway Project and said it has been revived by extending every possible help, including granting exemption from royalty on aggregates.
Similar concessions, which were never given in the past, have been extended to other major NHAI projects as well. Based on the requests from the Centre's side, the validity of soil/gravel permits has been extended on May 9, 2022 from 3 months to 1 year.
A Special Cell has been constituted in the State headquarters to monitor land acquisition for highway projects. Permissions from Forest department are also being reviewed and "to the best of my knowledge, no major NHAI project is held up for want of such permissions," Stalin said.
Progress in land acquisition and borrow earth permissions by the district collectors is being regularly monitored at the level of chief secretary. The other requests for providing borrow earth free of cost by waiving the material cost, royalty and seigniorage charges are also under consideration.
Stalin requested Gadkari to instruct his department officials to look into the "very specific request raised by our MP." The road stretch pointed out is the Sriperumbudur to Walajapet section of NH-4 where the six-laning work is in progress. The work has been held up due to contractual issues between the contractors and NHAI and hence the condition of the existing road is very bad.
"It is not out of place to mention that the High Court of Madras in December, 2020 reduced the toll fee at Sriperumbudur and Chennasamudram toll plazas to 50 per cent due to such poor maintenance. The poor road conditions and the difficulties faced by road users have caused a major dent in the reputation of NHAI, which otherwise has been doing an excellent job in our State," Stalin pointed out.
The Chief Minister sought suitable instructions to officials to expedite the six-laning work and maintain that road stretch in good condition. "I once again assure you that we will continue to extend all necessary cooperation for your projects."