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NHAI: Awaiting 8th Chairman since 2015 and a Member (Finance) & Member (PPP) since Oct 2019

By IndianMandarins- 21 Nov 2021
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New Delhi (21.11.2021): With a sense of urgency, the NDA administration is seen moving in the direction of finding a new chairman as well as a Member (Finance) for NHAI. Most probably, it may on its own, without going through any formal process, choose an officer from 1990-1993 batch IAS. Even as this process is on, the Search-Cum-Selection-Committee (SCSC) is said to have completed the exercise to recommend names for selection as Member-Finance of NHAI.

NHAI holds an important place in the NDA's political calculation because the uninterrupted and rapid construction of highways can be showcased as a demonstrable example of the administration's accomplishment.

Sources say that there are five shortlisted candidates for Member-Finance from a list of nine applicants. This critical post has been vacant for the last two years.

NHAI consists of a full-time Chairman, and five full-time Members, and four part-time Members.

Despite its achievements on other fronts, NHAI has not been treated well in terms of the appointment of the key personnel including its chairman.

Like the post of Member-Finance, the Member (PPP) post has also been vacant for over two years though there was an attempt to fill it last year but was somehow SCSC process was stopped midway. 

The post of NHAI Chairman fell vacant after Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, a 1988 batch IAS, was repatriated to his parent cadre (Uttarakhand) in the first week of July this year to become the state Chief Secretary.

Unfortunately, it’s a harsh reality that NHAI is scheduled to get its eighth chairman in a span of barely six years since August 2015. Two of its chairmen Nagendra Nath Sinha and Sanjeev Ranjan had terms only for seven and five months respectively.

The frequent change of the chief of the highway building and maintenance organization has been a problem since 2006 barring three years during 2012-15 when R P Singh served a full term. Reportedly, he was the last chairman to be selected through a search-cum-selection process.

Insiders say that after Singh, none of the Chairmen came through the SCSC route and this time also the Chairman is expected to be appointed by ACC directly very soon.

Since NHAI deals with complicated issues relating to contracts and disputes officers, its senior officials need time to hone skills and acquire experience but in most cases, by the time their learning process reaches maturity, they are moved for one reason or the other leaving the mammoth organization to face its fate.   

(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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