The simmering dispute between the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Planning Commission has degenerated into a war of words with NHAI asking for an audit of the role played by the Planning Commission in blocking and derailing the roads body’s attempts to revive the roads sector, reports Timsy Jaipuria in New Delhi. While the Planning Commission and NHAI have had a long history of differences, the latest issue revolves around the NHAI wanting to set up a society for redressal of disputes between itself and various highway developers. Reacting to this, Gajendra Haldea, adviser to the plan panel’s deputy chairman, wrote to the secretary of the roads ministry asking whether the International Centre for Alternate Dispute Resolution Rules were going to be followed and, if not, whether this was permissible under the Model Concession Agreement.
Reacting to Haldea’s letter, NHAI chairman RP Singh wrote back to the roads secretary saying the MCA allows for either following ICADR or any mutually agreed procedure. More important, he said, the new society set up — Society for Affordable Resolution of Disputes (SAROD) will actually lower the costs of arbitration.
Singh has complained that “every initiative of the NHAI to revive the road sector has been opposed by the Planning Commission”. The Planning Commission, Singh’s letter says, has blocked the exit policy which would have given a fillip to the roads sector, and also caused the delay in the Cabinet decision on rescheduling of premiums on expressways.
“I wish some agency,” Singh said, “conducts an audit of the role played by the Planning Commission in blocking and derailing all our attempts to revive the road sector and the consequent damage caused to the economy.”
Singh added that it was high time that the role of the Planning Commission was reviewed and the Ministry started playing a proactive role to sort out the issues being faced by the road sector. “I would also request you to expedite the pending proposals to empower the NHAI Board to approve the projects, select the mode of delivery and make requisite changes in MCA."
Singh said: " I am not sure whether the letter of the Adviser to deputy chairman planning commission has the approval of Deputy Chairman (of the commission) ...This letter of the Adviser to the deputy chairman does not seem to be an official communication of the Planning Commission and, therefore, deserves to be ignored."