Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari recently chaired a virtual meeting comprising 300 officials from the road ministry, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd. (NHIDCL) to assess the impact of the outbreak of covid-19 on road projects as well as the government’s strategy after the lockdown is lifted.
The minister asked officials to make the best use of the lockdown, and complete pending work such as clearing dues to contractors, granting project approvals, so that construction work can resume in full swing as soon as the lockdown is lifted, a senior government official told Mint.
Last month, the government imposed a three-week nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, which also resulted in the ban of construction activity, along with shortage of labourers, construction workers that moved back to their villages.
“Shortage of labour could be a challenge even after the lockdown and this could hurt construction activity for some time, even if the lockdown is lifted on April 14," the official said, adding that some construction workers, who did not move to their villages now, may want to rush to meet their families after the lockdown is lifted.
While the 21-day nationwide lockdown is expected to get over on April 14, the union government is yet to announce whether it will be expected, amid a rapid increase in the coronavirus cases in the country. Besides, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday hinted at an extension of the nationwide lockdown beyond its current deadline, telling Members of Parliament (MPs) of different political parties that experts favoured doing so. Modi also added that a final call on the issue would be taken after the upcoming meeting with all chief ministers on 11 April.
The road ministry plans to seek home ministry’s nod to resume road maintenance work in areas that are not so densely populated, and at low-risk places, where the number of covid-19 cases are not big.
“If this is allowed (If maintenance work is resumed), it will boost the confidence of the labourers, who are already stuck at various places, away from their family," the official said.
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