A day after sparking ‘road politics’ by naming two highways after Lord Ram and promising to spend Rs. 50,000 crore to build state roads by the year-end, Union minister for transport and national highways Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday asserted that there would be no politics on development issues and he would take steps in a month to increase the length of national highways in Uttar Pradesh.
“The length of national highways is less than the present formula-(less than national average in terms of per lakh population). I will take positive steps in next one month to rectify this,” said Gadkari after reviewing projects of his ministry at a high-level meeting with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Minister for Public Works Department (PWD) Shivpal Singh Yadav here.
Gadkari referred to the state government’s point that the length of highways in Uttar Pradesh was 3.39 km per lakh of population against the national average of 5.86 km per lakh.
“I have assured the Chief Minister that we will spend Rs. 50,000 crore by year-end. This amount may go up by Rs. 10,00015,000 crore,” said Gadkari. He said work on some of the important road projects, including Delhi-Meerut Expressway and eastern peripheral road would begin soon.
“UP is on our priority list. We will do all that in the next two years what has not been done in the past 10 years,” he said.
On naming two highways after Lord Ram, Gadkari said he would not take any questions on political issues as he was sharing the dais with the Chief Minister. “I am with the BJP but there will be no politics on development issues. Politics and development are two different things,” he said.
On the issue of additional funds for the maintenance of national highways in the state, Gadkari said efforts would be made for the upkeep of national highways with public-private investment. “We will find ways and the condition of roads will improve in the next one-and-ahalf year,” he said.
Gadkari used the occasion to speak about the amendments proposed to the Motor Vehicle Act and announced that the Centre would bring a new toll policy by the end of February. A bill would also be brought before the parliament to convert 101 rivers across the country into waterways, he said. All the Uttar Pradesh’s rivers (as notified by the state government) would be brought under its purview and be declared waterways, Gadkari said. “Work has begun on connecting Varanasi with Haldia. It will be completed in next one year. Permission has already been given for seaplane in Mumbai and they can make a landing in small ponds of 100 metres as well,” he said. Gadkari said the UP Chief Minister had assured expeditious action on land acquisition issues. He said that the Chief Minister had been requested to provide the sand taken out from rivers after dredging. This would bring down the cost of construction of roads, he said. Gadkari added that the state government could make use of the union government’s contract with mills to get cheap cement to bring down the cost of construction of state roads. “With this, the cost of Agra-Lucknow Expressway can be brought down,” he said.