On July 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay a foundation stone in Azamgarh for an expressway between Lucknow and Ghazipur. On December 22, 2016, then Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav had laid the foundation stone for the same expressway. A look at what the project seeks to achieve, and what happened between the two ceremonies:
East to west
Running 354 km, it will complete a link by expressways between UP’s east and west. Expressways from Noida in the west to Agra (165 km), and then from Agra to Lucknow (302 km), are already in place, before this extends to Ghazipur in the east, a total of over 800 km. There is a proposal to link the expressway to Varanasi, the PM’s constituency. It will run through Azamgarh, the constituency of Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, among nine districts. Being built at Rs 23,000 crore, it is expected to cut travel time between Lucknow and Ghazipur down to 4½ hours, from the current 6 hours.
Then & now
When Akhilesh laid the foundation stone ahead of the Assembly elections, the government had not acquired even half the land. After the present government took charge, it cancelled the earlier tender citing lack of land as the reason. Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the government has revived the project, making a few changes in the alignment, and replacing the name “Samajwadi Purvanchal Expressway” with simply “Purvanchal Expressway”.
When the first tender was floated in November 2015, the proposal was to connect Lucknow to Ballia on the Bihar border. After a review, the plan was limited until Ghazipur in order to reduce the extent of clearances that would have been required. The initial six packages (stretches) were increased to eight packages. By the end of 2016, the last government had bought about 40% of the land and selected six firms for the eight stretches — NCC, Ashoka Buildcon, PNC, Gayatri Constructions, Afcons, Larsen & Toubro.
Months after it came to power, the new government changed the name and cancelled the tenders allotted on the ground that less that 40% land had been acquired. Under a fresh tender process, seven companies were selected last month, including Reliance Infrastructure, Larsen & Toubro, PNC Infratech, NCC Ltd, Gayatri Projects, and Afcons Infrastructure. The government, however, cancelled the process again, hoping to lower the construction cost further. Ahead of the Azamgarh event, government sources said they expect to complete the tender process by July 10.
Govts and E-ways
The Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway was built by the Mayawati government after a prolonged agitation over land acquisition, and the Agra-Lucknow expressway by the next government. Both inaugurated by Akhilesh, they are connected by a ring road in Agra. The present government has also proposed another Expressway in Bundelkhand, and acquired over 90% of the land.
The Opposition has challenged the upcoming function for the Lucknow-Ghazipur expressway, which it sees as appropriation of its project. “It was planned and started by Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister. How can they lay the foundation stone again?” said Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary.
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