Yogi’s axe on Akhilesh’s Lucknow-Agra Expressway project; irregularities in land use, acquisition surface
By Namita Bajpai | Express News Service | Published: 21st April 2017 04:12 PM |
LUCKNOW: After prestigious Gomti Riverfront and Jai Prakash Narain International Centre (JPNIC), one of the most ambitious and much-hyped infrastructure projects of previous Akhilesh government—302 km long Lucknow-Agra Expressway—has come under the cloud as the newly anointed Yogi Adityanath government has ordered a departmental probe into it. The State government has also engaged RITES, a public sector consultancy company to undertake a technical survey of the Expressway.
In a letter dated April 19, sent to 10 district magistrates, the State government has ordered an inquiry into all the land deals done in around 230 notified villages over the last 18 months. The DMs have been asked to submit their respective reports within a month.
The decision to hold probe into the project follows a complaint lodged by a special field officer of UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) against five chakbandi officers and 22 land owners in Firozabad for changing the land-use. “They are accused of showing agricultural land in Bachhela Bachheli village under Sirsaganj Tehsil as residential land since residential plots fetch a greater compensation,” said a UPEIDA official.
“As per the mandate of the probe, the DMs will inquire if the lands across 10 districts, along the Expressway were acquired lawfully or they were purchased by the third party from the farmers at throwaway prices and later sold to authorities at government prices drawing huge profit,” said a highly-placed source in UPEIDA.
“The government has no intent to close any project. But it would ensure that genuine farmers have not incurred losses. However, the anomalies, if any, will draw harsh and strict action by the authorities,” said Awanish Awasthi, newly appointed CEO of UPEIDA, adding that he expected the detailed inquiry to be completed in a month.
It may be recalled that Lucknow-Agra Expressway dominated the poll narrative of previous CM Akhilesh Yadav who flagged the project as one of the most astounding achievements of his government. The Expressway was inaugurated by Akhilesh Yadav along with father and Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav in the presence of Shivpal Yadav and other senior SP leaders and members of Yadav clan with much fan fare on November 21, 2017.
Meanwhile, the present dispensation has also underlined that fact that around Rs 670 crore earmarked for the project was lying unused in its accounts. Of the allocated amount, around Rs 200 crore was with district magistrates and the rest was with UPEIDA, it claimed.
Moreover, 99.5 per cent of the land out of the 3,300 hectare land that had to be acquired for the project has already been purchased. Now the DMs have been asked to return funds with them while the amount with UPEIDA has also been reversed. The UPEIDA finance controller has been replaced.
The Expressway, worth Rs 15,000 crore, passes through Etawah, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Unno, Kanpur, Kannauj, Auraiya and Hardoi. As per the claims of the previous regime, the project was completed in record time of 23 months but the opposition often contested the claim by saying that it completed only superficially and a lot needed to be done.