Tamil Tribune

National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Tamil Nadu State at Crossroads

K. Anantharaman

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2013 (ID. 2013-05-01)
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National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) builds national highways throughout India, including Tamil Nadu. About a decade or so ago NHAI took over some Tamil Nadu State Highways saying that it would be able to upkeep them better. What was the first thing it does? Did it repair sections of the newly acquired highways? No. First thing was to add Hindi milestones. First things first. Hindi propagation before all else. Now to the current situation (March 2013),

An interesting news came to our attention recently: "With work on bypass roads carried out by the National Highways Authority of India moving at a snail's pace, the state government, for the first time, has taken over maintenance and restoration of 11 stretches, extending to 81.27 km. (Times of India: March 24, 2013)." The 11 stretches include Nagapattinam- Gudalur-Mysore road, Chennai-Trichy-Dindigul Road, Madurai-Kanyakumari Road, Trichy-Ramanathapuram Road, Puducherry-Krishnagiri Road and Salem-Cochin Road. 

Instead taking responsibility for the undue delay, the Tamilnadu state government is blamed: "If there is a delay, it is because the state has not given early clearances for mining construction material to the NHAI contractors." We know why clearance was not given. Clearance was not given because of environmental concerns. While the National Highway Authority of India may not be concerned about pollution in Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu government has concerns about the adverse environmental effects of quarrying in some regions. What is the solution? NHAI should buy the necessary construction material from private market (that is readily available); NHAI is not doing so because of higher cost, and is holding up vital highway projects in Tamil Nadu. Indian government collects taxes from Tamil Nadu businesses and people and so the Indian government has a responsibility to provide adequate infrastructure (for example, highways). Tamilnadu cannot look the other way about environmental pollution so that NHAI can quarry construction materials cheap. Essentially the Indian Government controlled National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is holding Tamil Nadu highway projects on hold to force Tamil Nadu to allow environmentally unacceptable quarrying.

Frustrated with this NHAI tactic Tamil Nadu Government has taken over maintenance and restoration of some stretches of highways important to the people & businesses. Either Indian government should reimburse the cost of these projects or share in the business taxes it collects in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu should not have to carry the double burden of paying taxes to the Indian government and also paying for national highway projects. It is unfair, it is unacceptable.

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