Mumbai: Union roads and highway minister Nitin Gadkari Tuesday termed media reports, quoting a letter from the PMO, indicating financial troubles at the National Highways Authority as "baseless and far from reality."
In a letter dated August 17, to Sanjeev Ranjan, the transport secretary, by Nripendra Misra, the principal secretary to the prime minister has reportedly flayed the massive expansion plans of NHAI as it has left the authority financially crippled.
The letter came on the heels of the PMO putting on hold all 'in-principle approvals' given to state roads that were to be declared as national highways.
As per the reports in a section of the media, the letter said, the NHAI is totally logjammed by an unplanned and excessive expansion of roads and it is paying much higher costs for land and also construction.
When asked about the letter, Gadkari Tuesday evening denied any financial troubles at the authority. "What has come in the media about the letter is wrong.
It was just a suggestion that has come from the PMO, in which they have just brought it to the notice. There has been no decision on the same. The media report is wrong and far from reality," Gadkari said.
Misra had asked Ranjan to collate suggestions to improve NHAI's operational performance, the minister told reporters on the sidelines of an event by industry lobby IMC.
"The NHAI is a AAA-rated entity and there is no dearth of money. In the past 20 days alone, I have got a funding commitment of Rs 1.75 trillion from various financial institutions.
LIC alone has committed to Rs 1.25 trillion while banks have agreed to give Rs 50,000 crore. So money is available," the minister said. For the year to March 2019, the NHAI had a debt pile of Rs 1.78 trillion on its book.
The letter reportedly said the NHAI should stop constructing roads and become a road asset management company and has sought a response from Gadkari.
The PMO is reportedly peeved about road infrastructure having become "financially unviable" and is concerned over "the unplanned and excessive expansion" of roads by declaring state roads as national highways.
"Road infrastructure has become financially unviable, private investors and construction companies are withdrawing from greenfield projects. Model hybrid annuity and EPC (where government funds 100 percent of the project cost) mode have become unsustainable. Reform needed," Misra is reported to have said in the letter.
Meanwhile, Gadkari also said government is planning to set up 10 medical devices manufacturing parks to meet domestic demand and also for exports. These parks will be modeled after the maiden park functional in Visakhapatnam in Andhra now.
"We want to now set up 10 such similar parks. We want global firms to join hands with us and provide us the best- in-class technology to manufacture even the smallest of medical devices, including prosthetic limbs.
This will help us make available the most expensive devices at much cheaper rates," Gadkari said. He said an MRI machine, which generally costs around Rs 4 crore, was manufactured in the Vizag factory at just about Rs 98 lakh.
"I have written to Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to set up such a park and allocate around 200 acres. I am waiting his reply," Gadkari said.
Gadkari also said government has decided to make six districts in the state--Gondia, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Nagpur, Bhandara and Wardha--diesel-free."There will not be even a drop of diesel in these districts," he said.