Panel asks Street Ministry to simplify land acquisition, contract award norms

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Parliament’s Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture noted that land acquisition problems are at the core of delays in road projects and has asked the Land Transport Ministry to periodically review and simplify land acquisition guidelines. The panel called on the ministry to make “appropriate changes” to simplify the land acquisition process and iron out the various restrictions on land acquisition.

A report by the panel, led by BJP MP TG Venkatesh, states that the orientation set for a particular project should only be finalized after input from all stakeholders and the local population. It said all projects should also take into account future traffic forecasts and environmental concerns. “Changing direction later in the project can be costly and should be avoided,” the report said.

The panel said the current land valuation mechanism could help the ministry cope with the huge increase in road project costs due to land acquisition costs in recent years. “The committee recommends the ministry to make the advance contribution of the state governments flexible and based on the financial capacity of the state government,” it said.

A landowner prepayment mechanism may be devised to ensure payment in the form of an annuity for the long-term land-funded value financed by land value. The committee believes that such a system will reduce land acquisition litigation that leads to time and cost overruns, the report said.

It called on the ministry to conduct a holistic review of the FREP preparatory phase of road projects. It also recommended a central database of assessments of each concessionaire / contractor’s various road projects, which can be analyzed to determine the quality of the work carried out by all concessionaires. The panel also asked the ministry to analyze the shortcomings of the existing mechanism for awarding road projects to the lowest bidder. The Committee believes that when awarding a project to a concessionaire, other factors besides the bid amount should also be taken into account. A qualitative approach must be formulated for the award of road projects.

The committee recommended that the ministry work with the Central Vigilance Commission to appropriately take up the amendment to the CVC guidelines for procurement in order to enable a qualitative approach in the procurement process.