Uttar Pradesh’s infra on expressway drive

With a gross state domestic product (GSDP) of 17 lakh crores, Uttar Pradesh has surpassed Punjab to become the country’s second largest economy, up from its previous sixth place.

UP defence corridor
The Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) has allotted 55.40 hectares of land to 19 companies. (File photo: IE)

By Gopal Goswami

Previously classified as the Bimaru states, Uttar Pradesh now accounts for the lion’s share of the economy. Uttar Pradesh is spearheading the rally. The present growth rate of India includes a significant amount of UP. UP is acquiring all of the required boosters in order to shed the Bimaru state label and ultimately make it to the national stage. UP is now acquiring most international and local investments because of the state’s infrastructure in recent years. From national highways to expressways, UP is setting new standards and shattering old ones. With its superior infrastructure and low-cost labour, UP can bring miracles to the state. This landlocked state is going to benefit significantly from the network of high-speed highways and airports it has built in recent times.

Consider the state’s road and aviation networks.

Uttar Pradesh boasts an 800-kilometer-long highway network that was constructed during the previous 1.5 decades. With the recent completion of the Purvanchal expressway, the state now accounts for 28% of the country’s expressway network. Soon, the expressways connecting Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur will be added to this count, giving UP a massive 1200-kilometer-long expressway network. While the previous governments constructed only two expressways in ten years (2007–2017), the Yamuna Expressway and the Lucknow-Agra Expressway, the Yogi government has completed the Purvanchal Expressway and is on track to complete the Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur link expressways by the middle of 2022, within five years’ time.

The Purvanchal Expressway was conceptualised by the Akhilesh administration in 2016, but bids were invited without land acquisition, and hence the project never saw the light of day during the Akhilesh government’s tenure. After acquiring land from scratch, the Yogi government cancelled old bids and invited them again. Additionally, the Yogi government corrected the Akhilesh government’s flawed Detailed Project Report (DPR) and saved taxpayers almost 3000 crores through route optimization. The Yogi government finished the express route in a record-breaking 40 months.

The Purvanchal Expressway is a specially constructed length of road for fighter aircraft emergency landings. This expressway will also serve as a conduit for the development of industrial centres along its length. Through the Agra-Lucknow and Yamuna Expressways, this expressway connects eastern Uttar Pradesh to the state capital of Lucknow and the NCR area. This initiative will significantly help the eastern UP’s economic growth. The 296-kilometer-long Bundelkhand Express route would connect Chitrakut and Etawah. It will provide a link between Agra and Lucknow.

This four-lane highway is being constructed at a cost of around Rs 14,000 crore and will connect Bundelkhand to the National Capital Region. Over the last 6–7 decades, Bundelkhand has remained impoverished in terms of infrastructure and industrialization.

Now this expressway connects to the UP defence industrial corridor. A significant portion of the corridor, including two nodes – Jhansi and Chitrakoot – is located in Bundelkhand. This expressway, which began construction in 2020 and is now more than 75% complete, is expected to open to the public in 2022. The Ganga Expressway was initially proposed by former Chief Minister Mayawati, but was stalled in court because of environmental concerns. The Allahabad high court scrapped this project due to its proximity to the Ganga’s banks.

The Yogi government reconfigured the project, keeping it clear of river banks yet close to major cities and district headquarters. The first phase of this expressway would connect Meerut to Prayagraj, covering a distance of 594 kilometres; the second phase will connect Tigri to the Uttarakhand border in the north and Prayagraj to Ballia in the east. When completed, this 594-kilometer-long expressway will be the country’s longest. It will connect the districts of Meerut, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Amroha, Sambha, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh, and Prayagraj.

The land acquisition is near to completion and the foundation stone laying is planned to be placed in the coming month. A 91-kilometer-long expressway is being developed between Azamgarh and Gorakhpur. This highway would connect Gorakhpur and the adjacent Tarai area to the Purvanchal Expressway, thereby connecting the region to Lucknow and the national capital via the expressway network. According to government sources, almost 35% of the work has been done. Prime Minister Modi has consistently emphasised the need for air connectivity. PM Modi’s flagship programmes such as UDAN and NABH (Nextgen Airports of Bharat) plan to make air travel affordable.

While 74 airports were constructed in the 67 years preceding Modi’s appointment in 2014, 62 new airports have been constructed in the previous seven years. The country now has about 136 operational airports, and the central government’s goal is to increase that number to 220 by 2025. UP has constructed 15 airports in the last few years and taken its operational airport count to 20. Due to the centre’s special attention, Uttar Pradesh airport construction received significant emphasis. Kushinagar International Airport was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 21, 2021, and was built at a cost of Rs 260 crore.

Although the Mayawati government conceptualised the initiative, it was unable to bring it to fruition on the ground. This is now part of the Buddhist circuit with the inaugural flight of monks from Sri Lanka. Kushinagar is the location of Gautam Buddh’s Maha Nirwan, and its establishment is projected to enhance spiritual tourism in Asia’s Buddhist countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. PM Modi laid the foundation stone for the Noida International Airport in Jewar recently. The airport is scheduled to open in 2024 and will have a capacity of 1.2 million passengers per year. The airport is ideally located 42 kilometres from Delhi’s IGI airport, 40 kilometres from Dadri’s multimodal logistics centre, and 50 kilometres from the Defence corridor. It would serve as a stimulus for investment, industry development, and job creation.

Apart from physical infrastructure expansion, the Uttar Pradesh government places a premium on social and cultural infrastructure. In 2019, the public was able to visit an AIIMS facility in Gorakhpur that Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for in 2016. Over 30 lakh rural residents have received access to piped drinking water in the last two years, and nearly every hamlet now has power. The state is equally committed to cultural and spiritual infrastructure development. Ayodhya has risen to the top of the world’s spiritual tourism destinations, and with the completion of the Grand Bhagwan Ram’s Mandir, Ayodhya will become the next great thing in the future. The state is home to Bhagwan Ram and Krishna’s birthplace, as well as the ultimate resting place of Bhagwan Buddh, making it a vital element of the Ramayan and Buddhist circuits.

The Rs 700 crore Kashi Vishwanath Dham project in Varanasi is one of PM Modi’s major initiatives. It intends to expand and extend the campus of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, as well as build facilities along the corridor that connects the Mandirs to the Manikarnika Ganga Ghat. PM Modi plans to launch the project next month, after roughly 90 percent of the construction is completed. As a result, it has been demonstrated that capable leadership can change a Bimaru state plagued by mafias and lax law and order into one of India’s most lively and prosperous states.

With a gross state domestic product (GSDP) of 17 lakh crores, Uttar Pradesh has surpassed Punjab to become the country’s second largest economy, up from its previous sixth place. Additionally, the state ranks second in terms of ease of doing business, and its per capita income nearly quadrupled between 2017 and 2018. With a population of 20 crores, it is critical that development proceeds apace in order to realise this population’s aspiration of living in safety and dignity, something they have never experienced in the 6.5 decades since independence. Among all the states, UP is a clear winner.

(The author is Research Scholar at NIT Surat. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)

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