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August 9, 2012

Akhilesh Yadav opens Yamuna Expressway to Taj Mahal

     Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, inaugurated the Yamuna Expressway between Greater NOIDA and Agra , the city where the famous Taj Mahal is located. While inaugurating the 165-kilometer-long expressway, Yadav appealed the commuters not to speed the vehicles more than 100 kilometers per hour. “Earlier the name for this expressway was something else, but now it has been changed as ‘Yamuna Expressway’. The older name was ‘Taj Expressway’ but now it has been changed to ‘Yamuna Expressway’. The highway is new and the road is well constructed, so I would appeal the commuters not to speed the vehicles for more than 100 kilometres per hour,” said Yadav in Lucknow . Driving across Uttar Pradesh's existing highways can be by turns treacherous or mind-numbingly slow. Cars and trucks jostle with bicycles, bullock carts, cows and goats along what are often narrow and potholed roads, gumming up traffic and prompting drivers to veer dangerously across lanes to overtake. With a creaking rail network, India relies heavily on such highways to transport goods. But their often-shoddy condition saps the competitiveness of companies and creates supply bottlenecks that have helped keep inflation uncomfortably high. The average speed of trucks travelling on Indian roads is just 35 km per hour, less than half the 75 km per hour in the United States , according to a report by global management consultancy McKinsey and Company. The expressway is six-lane highway costing two billion dollars, would reduce the journey time and may also increase the influx of tourists visiting the city. Yadav said that the incomplete service lanes would soon be completed and the cases registered against farmers in the near by villages would also be withdrawn. “The road has been constructed but the service lane is not fully constructed. At many places the service lane is still to be completed and would be completed soon. We would also construct hospitals, schools and other development activities would also be carried forward in the near by villages as promised. The cases filed against the farmers would be withdrawn,” said Yadav. According to media reports, a round trip to Agra through this expressway would cost Rupees 510 as toll charges. Farmers, egged on by what was at that time the state's main opposition Samajwadi Party (SP), said the project would rob small landholders of fertile land and their livelihoods. Grumbling about inflation, power and water shortages, the farmers have scant faith in politicians and struggle to see how a massive highway running over their lands would benefit them. Meanwhile, lawmaker and General Secretary of regional Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Jayant Chaudhary, slammed Yadav for celebrating it as the greatest achievement of the state government, explaining that the farmers would be unable to use the expressway till the service lanes are completed. “As part of the concessionary agreement, it was stated that two service lanes would be provided and at number of points in this 165 kilometers long highway, there would be under passes. Now, say if a land of the farmer is acquired, half of the land is in one side and half is on the other side, he cannot climb up and use the highway. He cannot take fodder and vehicles on the other side, for that purpose, these service lanes and under passes were provided. Now, the state government in grandiose manner is stating and showcasing this road as part of its greatest achievements and inaugurating the road and commuters will have to pay the toll for using this highway. But, only 20 kilometers of service lane is constructed, why they have not prepared the service lanes on either side,” said Chaudhary in New Delhi . Chaudhary further complained that: “Toll tax is very high and the question is that people who are going to use it every day, people who live there, who have to go to their work places everyday, people who have given their lands in this expressway, at least they deserve certain leniencies. Till today, they are fighting cases, people had agitated and in those agitations cases were put on them by the state government at that time, those cases are still going on and their demands are quite valid. There is a spot called Bajna, which falls in my parliamentary constituency, the chief minister had come two months ago and promised that I will look into giving a cut and an access for people there, that is not been granted. So, a number of questions are being raised.” Across India , poor infrastructure has helped put the brakes on the once-stellar growth of Asia 's third-largest economy, which has dropped to its slowest pace in nine years, and businesses are clamouring for more policy action. Lacking the financial muscle that China has to bring its infrastructure up to speed, New Delhi has turned to the private sector to fund half of the one trillion dollar target. But time after time, big investments fall prey to red tape and battles over land, stalling projects for years. Firms complain bureaucracy and corruption delay the awarding of contracts, while debt to fund new ventures is scarce and the market in which to bid for them too aggressive. As a result, New Delhi has consistently missed construction and funding targets for many sectors in recent years. Out of 583 projects worth more than 1.5 billion rupees each, 235 are delayed, according to the government's 2011-12 economic survey. Roads are the worst hit, although the eight billion dollar Golden Quadrilateral project, that links big cities New Delhi , Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai with modern highways, has been mostly completed.
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