Editor's note: This article, originally published on 31 October 2021 in wake of Akhilesh Yadav's journey through the Purvanchal Expressway, is being republished today to revisit the views of Uttar Pradesh's Leader of Opposition's views as the expressway is inaugurated today by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of crucial state polls.
The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will soon inaugurate the Purvanchal Expressway in Uttar Pradesh is making the Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav very jittery. Recently in an interview with a leading Hindi channel, Akhilesh, after travelling on the Expressway, made several contradictory and false claims.
Before 2017, eastern UP was one of the neglected regions in the state. Whatever little Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party focused was on the already prosperous western region of the state. The Purvanchal Expressway promises to lead the eastern part of the state into a new orbit of economic growth and connectivity.
The 341-km-long Purvanchal Expressway will connect UP’s nine districts — Lucknow, Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Ayodhya, Ambedkarnagar, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur. What’s pinching Akhilesh Yadav is the fact that he is a Member of Parliament from Azamgarh and his father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, also harnessed regions of eastern UP for political gains. But today it’s the Adityanath government that is rapidly developing eastern UP, with multiple medical colleges, expressways and other development projects.
After claiming that the Purvanchal Expressway was made by his Samajwadi party government, Akhilesh found faults in its construction work, accusing the Yogi government of compromising with its quality. Let me help clear the confusion.
The reality is that the Purvanchal Expressway was just on papers during Akhilesh’s time; this got the light of the day under the Adityanath government. In fact, the detailed project report (DPR) of the Purvanchal Express during Akhilesh’s time was faulty and was completely re-worked upon by the Yogi government. The route alignment was optimised saving almost Rs 3,000 crore of taxpayers’ money in the process. The previous Samajwadi Party government had hardly acquired 25 per cent of the land and declared it their project. Even to issue a tender in such a large EPC contract, the government has to acquire at least 90 per cent of the land before issuing a tender.
Akhilesh Yadav commented on the quality of the Purvanchal Expressway. Let’s analyse the intricate details. The series of expressways made or under-construction during Yogi’s regime are marked with superior engineering design. If we do an engineering comparison of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway of Akhilesh Yadav’s time and Purvanchal Expressway of Adityanath’s rule, the difference is clear. The median width of Agra-Lucknow Expressway is 4.5m and the soft shoulder width is 1.5m on both sides of the route, whereas in Purvanchal Expressway this width is 5.5m and 2.0m respectively. So, the embankment of Purvanchal Expressway is 2m wider than that of Agra-Lucknow Expressway.
Median of the Purvanchal Expressway has a provision of W-beam crash barrier for the safety of vehicles on both sides and an anti-glare screen has also been made for the turns of radius less than 4,000m. For the construction of Purvanchal Expressway, 120m width of land was purchased. Whereas only 110m wide ‘Right of Way’ (ROW) was purchased for Agra-Lucknow Expressway. As per guidelines of Indian Road Congress (IRC); minimum desirable width of median of road in rural highways should be 3-5m and urban highways be 2.5m. But in his over-enthusiasm to impress the journalists in his interviews, Akhilesh is mis-quoting these days that Indian Road Congress (IRC) recommends a median of 12-14m.
Akhilesh Yadav inaugurated the Agra-Lucknow Expressway hurriedly in 2016 when it was only 80 per cent complete. It’s evident that the Agra-Lucknow Expressway was made in haste, compromising the construction quality by the Akhilesh government. Within just one year of its hasty inauguration, an SUV car plunged 15-20 feet after the road caved on a crack in the Agra-Lucknow expressway. Many incomplete works of the Agra-Lucknow Expressway were completed after the Yogi government took charge in March 2017. List of unfinished works on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway is long, which were completed by the Yogi government — 800m long bituminous concrete, one long bridge, four interchange bridges, 22.2 km long crash barrier, 37.5km of road marking, 200km of road signage, 289km of medium fencing and 178km of ROW.
Do you want to know the answer to the riddle: How could every project meticulously executed by the Yogi government become Akhilesh’s project? It so happened that in December 2016, just two months before the 2017 Assembly elections, Akhilesh Yadav in a pre-election announcement spree declared more than 300 new development projects worth over Rs 60,000 crore. So, in the last five years, whenever the Adityanath government completes any new project, Akhilesh Yadav and his party cheer leaders call it their project!
In any TV debate on UP infrastructure, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) spokespersons talk about 165 km Greater Noida-Agra Expressway built in their times and any Samajwadi Party spokesperson flaunts the 302km Agra-Lucknow Expressways built in their times. In the last 15 years of SP+BSP rule, people of Uttar Pradesh built only 467 km of expressways, that too limited only to western UP. In contrast, before December 2021, the Yogi government will operationalise Purvanchal Expressway and Bundelkhand Expressway, adding a whopping 641 km to the expressways’ road infrastructure in Uttar Pradesh. And this 641 km will be achieved by the Yogi government in five years, in contrast to 467 km built during the SP and BSP governments in 15 years. With 91-km Gorakhpur Link Expressway and 600-km Ganga Expressway, Uttar Pradesh will enter a different league of high-quality road networks across the state. No wonder, in 2020, PM Modi praised Adityanath for transforming Uttar Pradesh into an ‘Express State’!
The author is a political commentator. Views expressed are personal.