Hardly four months since it was opened to the public, the previous government’s ambitious 302-km Lucknow-Agra Expressway project has come under scanner of the Yogi Aditynath-led government.
In a letter dated April 19, sent to 10 district magistrates, the government has ordered an inquiry into all land sale deeds signed in about 230 notified villages in the 18 months. The government also approached the public sector consultancy company RITES to conducted technical survey of the expressway.
“The government will not stop any project and would ensure that genuine farmers are not affected. However, at the same time, government would be harsh and strict on any stance of anomaly, which comes out,” said Awanish Awasthi, new Chief Executive Officer of Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), adding that he hoped that the detailed inquiry would be completed in a month’s time.
Meanwhile, the government claimed that around Rs 670 crore alloted to the project was lying unused in its accounts. Around Rs 200 crore of this amount was with district magistrates and the rest were with UPEIDA, it claimed.
This despite around 99.5 per cent of land for the project already purchased. District Magistrates have been asked to return funds with them while the amount with UPEIDA has been reversed, government officials said. The UPEIDA finance controller has been replaced.
The decision comes four days after UPEIDA special field officer Y N Lal filed an FIR in Firozabad against five chakbandi officers and 22 land owners for showing agriculture land in village Bachhela Bachheli under Sirsaganj Tehsil as residential land. Residential plots are eligible for greater compensation. Sources said that in case the alleged fraud had been successful, it would have cost the government at least Rs 3 crore loss. Around Rs 81 lakh was already allegedly released to about 11 land owners.
The government has now instructed district magistrates along the proposed Poorvanchal Expressway connecting Lucknow to Ballia in Eastern UP, to stop the process of “chakbandi” in about 19 villages of Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur districts till land acquisition is completed. So far Government has purchased about 35 per cent of the land required for this project.
The previous government had claimed that the expressway was constructed in record time and the then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav often peppered his election speeches with the mention of his dream project.
The project passes Etawah, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Unno, Kanpur, Kannauj, Auraiya and Hardoi and was estimated to cost Rs 15,000 crore. Around 3,300 hectares was to be acquired for the project.