Later today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for Uttar Pradesh’s fourth expressway, the Bundelkhand Expressway, in Chitrakoot.
The 290-kilometer-long expressway was proposed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in April 2017, just months after he came to power.
As its name suggests, the expressway passes through the districts in UP’s part of Bundelkhand — Chitrakoot, Banda, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Jalaun and Auraiya. The expressway takes off from Bharatkoop on National Highway 35, which is also called the Varanasi- Banda road, in the Chitrakoot district, and ends near Kudrail village in Etawah district on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway.
The expressway will link Chitrakoot with the Agra-Lucknow expressway in Etawah, which in turn is linked to the National Capital Region (NCR) through the state’s two operational expressways — 302-km Lucknow-Agra Expressway and the 165-km Yamuna Expressway.
Therefore, the expressway would make for seamless connectivity from one of the most industrially underdeveloped regions in the country to NCR.Uttar Pradesh already has the country’s longest expressway network with two operational expressways. The state’s third expressway, the Purvanchal Expressway, is likely to be opened for traffic by the end of 2020.
Apart from the Bundelkhand Expressway, the state is also likely to begin work on the 91-km-long Gorakhpur Link Expressway (which will link the Purvanchal Expressway with Gorakhpur) sometime this year. The state also plans to build a 1,020-km long expressway, named the Ganga expressway, to link the eastern and western boundaries of the state.
Land Acquisition and Financing
The process of land acquisition had begun in early 2019. Of the nearly 3,700 hectares of land that is required for the construction of the expressway, nearly 95 per cent been acquired so far and the rest is likely to be acquired over the next few months.
With the acquisition of 3,440 hectares in 10 months, without any protest from farmers, the Bundelkhand Expressway project holds the record for the fastest acquisition of land for a highway project in the state. With efficiency in land acquisition, the Adityanath government managed to cut cost escalation by 12 per cent.
The Uttar Pradesh government has transferred cost and compensation to the farmers who sold their land using real-time gross settlement, also referred to as RTGS, from the state treasury, cutting the red-tape significantly.
The Expressway is expected to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 14,850 crore, of which Rs 8,870 crore will be spent on civil work.
Of this, Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), the nodal agency for the project, was to raise 7,000 crore from bank loans. The state government was to provide the remaining investment. It allocated Rs 1,000 crore for the expressway in the 2019 Budget and Rs 750 crore in the 2020 Budget.
For its construction, the four-lane expressway, which will be expandable to six lanes, has been divided into six packages. Bids for all the packages were invited by the UPEIDA in February 2019. A total of 82 separate bids were received by UPEIDA from 17 bidders, with 10 contenders bidding for all six packages of the project.
The bids were opened in October 2019. Apco Infratech Private Limited has been given packages one and two, Ashoka Buildcon Limited package three, Gawar Constructions Limited packages four and five and Dilip Buildcon has been given the sixth package.
The lowest bid received was 12.72 per cent less than the estimated cost, as a result of which the UPEIDA will be able to save 1131.74 crore.
The expressway project will be implemented under the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) model. In the EPC model, the contractor is responsible for designing the project, procurement of material required to build it and its construction, after which the project is delivered to the end-user.
The access-controlled expressway will have a right of way (total land area acquired for the construction of the roadway) of 110 meters. A service road, 3.75 meters wide, will also be constructed on one side of the express.
A total of four rail overbridges, 14 large bridges, six toll plazas, seven ramp plazas, 266 small bridges, and 18 flyovers will be constructed on the expressway.
The construction of the expressway, however, has been delayed. In November 2019, UPEIDA officials told this correspondent in Lucknow n November that the construction of the expressway was likely to begin in December 2019.
Since then, the project has seen multiple delays.
At one point, it was reported that Prime Minister Modi will lay the foundation for the project in January 2020. However, this did not happen until today.
“We want to finish work on the Bundelkhand Expressway by the end of 2021 or, maximum, in the early months of 2022,” a UPEIDA official had said back in November. However, it is not clear if the delay will lead to a change in this plan. Uttar Pradesh goes to polls in 2022 and the Adityanath government would want the expressway, or at least its main carriageway, to be up and running before the elections.
Bundelkhand is electorally important for the BJP — of the 19 Vidhan Sabha seats in the seven districts that for Uttar Pradesh’s part of Bundelkhand, the party had won all 19 in 2017. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party had won all the four seats in the region, repeating its performance of the 2014 polls.
Bundelkhand Defence Corridor
The expressway is important for one more reason — the proposed Bundelkhand Defence Corridor, a flagship project of Chief Minister Adityanath to attract investment in this region. It is no coincidence that this year’s, the Defence Expo, a bi-annual exhibition of defence equipment and technology, was organised by the Ministry of Defence in state capital Lucknow this year.
Uttar Pradesh already has three Hindustan Aeronautics Limited manufacturing units, nine Ordnance Factories, Bharat Electronics Limited and other state-owned companies that are part of the defence sector. Most of these plants are in Lucknow, Kanpur and the adjoining regions, which are within the 300-350 km radius of Bundelkhand. In recent years, Kanpur has attracted investment in defence manufacturing from the private sector. Recently, the Lohia Group invested nearly Rs 100 crore in a greenfield aerospace and defence hardware plant in Kanpur.
MKU, a defence manufacturing firm headquartered in Kanpur has been supplying equipment to the Indian Army since the last 1980s, and to militaries, paramilitaries and police services in other countries as well.
Among other things, the company is manufacturing ballistic helmets for the Indian Army at its unit Malwan in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur district, a 40 minutes drive away from Kanpur, and a little over 130 km away from Chitrakoot, one of the six nodes (Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi, Kanpur and Lucknow being the other five) proposed under the Bundelkhand Defence Industrial Corridor project.
Therefore, there exists a defence manufacturing ecosystem in Uttar Pradesh which can be leveraged to bring investment in Bundelkhand.
As land costs rise in the existing industrial hubs such as Kanpur, Bundelkhand can emerge as a new destination for investment in defence manufacturing. The improvement in connectivity within the region and between the nodes of the Defence Corridor with the construction of the Bundelkhand Expressway will add to the advantage of low-cost labor and land in this region.
The Adityanath-government has already started building a land bank in the region. Of the 3700 hectares of land that has to ben identified for the defence corridor, nearly 3,000 hectares has already been acquired by the state.
The Defence Corridor received much attention during the Defence Expo in Lucknow, which was, by some accounts, the largest India has ever organised.