With the government’s focus on improving better infrastructure, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), within a short span of time created a space for itself. In an interview with Prashant Mukherjee of The Sunday Standard, Managing Director of NHIDCL Anand Kumar said that the company has been entrusted with 108 national highway projects with a project cost of around Rs 80,000 crore. Excerpts:-
In your career, this is the third institution you have created. How has it been so far?
This company is the latest initiative in infrastructure development made by the government, particularly to fast pace the sluggish growth in the infrastructure space in the country. We are merely around a year and three months old company and during this period we have been awarded to start 18 projects covering a total length of 600 kms with a cost of Rs 6,446 crore. Our major objective is to start at least 15 projects on ground.
Which are these places where the projects have been awarded?
Since our major focus is on development of North-East, most of the projects are from that region. In Assam, we have been awarded 10 projects, in Arunachal Pradesh we have 5 projects, Tripura we have 2 and one in Meghalaya.
What happened to the other three projects?
In the case of Meghalaya, where we have been awarded one project, the land is not available. The government has not been able to provide us the land. There are two other projects in Assam, where there is an environmental problem and there was an issue of procurement. The case has been filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for the environmental problem.
Being setting up great institutions, what had personally satisfied you the most?
The journey so far has been pretty exciting and full of challenges and it has given a lot of opportunities to work where you can change the lives of millions. I am thankful to god that he has given me that opportunity not once but twice and I tried to do my little bit for humanity. At a time, when I was posted at a camp at the Iraq border during the Iraq war - there I was part of that ‘significant rescue team of Airlift’. The entire rescue mission, and helping people to meet their families and given me the most satisfaction in my entire life so far.
How do you spend your time apart from work?
I enjoy painting. Since, my job allows me to travel to various parts of the country, the nature gives me an inspiration and try to capture those moments through my portraits.
Are you planning to make any longest tunnel in Himachal and Uttrakhand region
As of now, we have not done any tunnel. But we may do the Sirkhai tunnel at Uttrakhand, which would be about 3 kms. But we still haven’t finalised it. But most important thing is that actual work has been started in the North-East sector, which earlier was not happening at all.
What are your plans ahead?
This year, we have done about 322 kms and we plan to do more than double by next year. The target we have set is around 800 km.
Recently, NHIDCL came under attack by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who said the pace of the projects by NHIDCL is slow. How do you respond to that?
The fact is that NHIDCL, since its inception, has been striving to enhance the pace of development of critical connectivity infrastructure in the North-East. We have been able to fast-track activities for the construction of highways and development of other infrastructure in the North-East region and strategic border areas. In Assam, the company has already awarded 10 projects covering a length of approximately 280 kms to be built with an estimated cost of Rs 4,008 crore. And apart from two projects, we have started working on 8 other projects.
Did the global contractor strategy helped?
Last year, we held a workshop for capacity building of the local contractors, because we want global contractors to do all our jobs. Once the local contractors come in to the thing, they will employ local people and they will empower the local community. Therefore, we are giving them small packages to them. This way we have been able to save the cost, for instance in one contract we save Rs 139 crore.