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Right of way rules on cards for public projects

The Centre is actively considering a national Right of Way (RoW) framework to rationalise and smoothen implementation of public projects on all government land falling under the purview of different ministries. This is because several Union government projects – from laying of utilities like electric cables, water pipelines and telecom towers, to road expansion – are stuck or delayed due to varying procedures, timelines and charges for RoW over another department/ministry land.

Now, PM

Shakti National Master Plan team is working on the national RoW framework, which can be made applicable across all central ministries and departments to bring in some level of uniformity and predictability in processes, people aware of the development told ET.

“The idea is to bring in some common norms so that public projects are not held back due to wide variations in RoW procedures/approvals and the varying user charge regimes,” an official involved in the exercise told ET.

ET gathers that a draft RoW framework is near ready for central ministries to consider.

While the telecom department last week amended its own RoW rules to pave way for the 5G infrastructure rollout, the problem ails projects and scheme implementation across ministries.

Currently, the RoW regime varies considerably across even central government departments – apart from state governments – which often get stuck amid inter-departmental differences of opinion and hence face delays.

The thought process on a common framework was triggered in the Gati Shakti department primarily after a debate broke out between a clutch of departments earlier this year over RoW procedures in the way of the rollout of 5G network.

ET had reported on May 22 how the telecom department was at odds with several departments from defence to road transport and railways over the charges to be paid for use of government land for developing telecommunication infrastructure essential for nationwide 5G rollout and the flagship BharatNet project for rural tele-connectivity.

Nearly 500 telecom/optical fibre projects have been held up due to these interministerial variations. A bulk of them are related to defence land, either in border areas or cantonments.

At least, a 100 of the stuck projects are held up due to the quantum of levies at the other three ministries.

The roads ministry, for instance, has been seeking levies of 10% of the land’s market value from the telecom ministry, citing its rule books while the railways ministry is learnt to have sought for near 6% of the market value of the land and advance payment at yearly rate for 10 years. The ministry of environment and forests also brings in net present value charges which are imposed for use of forest land.

The telecom ministry had moved the Cabinet on the issue and announced amendments to the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) Rules, 2016 on Thursday.

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