Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
New Delhi: Ahead of general elections next year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi and the region of eastern Uttar Pradesh have turned out to be some of the biggest gainers in terms of national highways. In a span of just over four years, Varanasi has seen national highway projects worth ₹63,885 crore to link it with eastern UP.
The projects hold political importance for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was defeated in Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls in UP earlier this year.
A senior BJP leader who didn’t want to be identified said, “The road projects would certainly help people in eastern UP to connect back with the BJP and its development agenda. The projects are a testimony that we are delivering what we promised.”
According to the roads ministry, currently national highways of total length of 2,833km costing around ₹63,885 crore are underway to link Varanasi to other places in eastern UP. Of these, 15 roads of 1,143km are under various stages of construction. These include roads that will connect Varanasi with Jaunpur, Sultanpur, Ghaghra Bridge and Azamgarh. A sum of ₹30,227 crore is likely to be spent on these. Besides, there are seven targeted projects of 235km costing ₹8,265 crore. Also, 20 projects are in DPR (detailed project report) stage for constructing 1,455km of roads at a cost of ₹25,323 crore.
A senior roads ministry official on condition of anonymity said, “The 20 projects which are in DPR stage will be under the NDA government’s ₹5 trillion Bharatmala programme. The remaining projects are mix of Bharatmala and National Highways Development Project of the road ministry.” He added that some of these projects are also part of the road transport and highways ministry’s Mission 300, under which the government plans to complete projects before the 2019 general elections.
On 12 November, Modi is going to be on an inauguration spree for projects in Varanasi along with roads minister Nitin Gadkari and UP governor Ram Naik and CM Yogi Adityanath. The projects lined up for inauguration include two national highways —Varanasi Ring Road Phase-I and four-laning of the Babatput-Varanasi road on NH-56; an inland waterways terminal on the river Ganga which is the first of multi-modal terminals in India, PepsiCo receiving the country’s first container consignment (post independence) to be sent on an on inland waterways vessel.
Notably, the ancient city of Varanasi or Benaras is already undergoing a multi-billion-dollar transformation with a range of infrastructure projects coming up, including Metro rail, a multi-modal terminal, logistics parks and inland waterways. The small city of 82 sq. km on the banks of the river Ganga is being showcased by the NDA government for India’s next generation urban infrastructure schemes.
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