Barely four months after it was thrown open to public, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's ambitious Lucknow-Agra Expressway project has come under the scanner of the Yogi Adityanath government.
The expressway is being scrutinised for an alleged scam, involving farm land being passed as land for residential purposes to get higher compensation.
According to official sources, the state government has directed 10 district magistrates to probe all land deals done in around 230 villages over the last 18 months.
It has hired public sector company RITES to conduct a technical survey of the expressway within a month.
The move comes after a special field officer of Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), Y N Lal, filed an FIR in Firozabad against five 'chakbandi' (land consolidation) officers and 22 land owners accusing them of showing agriculture land in Bachhela Bachheli village as land for residential purposes.
Around 3,500 hectare of land was purchased from 20,456 farmers in 10 districts of 232 villages for this project.
UPEIDA chief executive officer Awanish Awasthi told PTI that he has sent letters to the district magistrates concerned on April 19.
The idea is to ensure that genuine farmers are not affected, he said.
The previous Samajwadi Party government had claimed that the 302-km long expressway was constructed in record time and then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav often peppered his election speeches with the mention of his "dream project".
The present government claims that around Rs 670 crore alloted for the project is lying unused in its accounts.
Around Rs 200 crore of this amount is with the district magistrates and the rest were with the UPEIDA, despite around 99.5 per cent of land for the project have already been purchased.
The District Magistrates have been asked to return funds lying with them, while the amount with UPEIDA has been reversed, officials said.
The expressway, which cost Rs 15,000 crore, passes through Etawah, Firozabad, Mainpuri, Unnao, Kanpur, Kannauj, Auraiya and Hardoi. It has an air strip near Unnao, where fighter planes can land, making it unique.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been reviewing the schemes of the Akhilesh Yadav government, including the Samajwadi Pension Yojana, Gomti river front project, Smartphone Yojana and cycle track project.
He has also ordered a thorough review of the prestigious Yash Bharti Awards, started by Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1994, saying that giving them away to undeserving persons lowers the prestige of such an honour.
The government has also instructed magistrates of districts along the proposed Poorvanchal Expressway, connecting Lucknow and Ballia in eastern Uttar Pradesh, to stop land consolidation in 19 villages of Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur districts till land acquisition is completed.
So far, the government has purchased about 35 per cent of the land required for this project.
Yogi for chopper service to link pilgrims
To promote religious tourism in Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government intends to link the places of tourist and pilgrim interest in the state with helicopter service.
This was conveyed by the chief minister during a presentation of Toursim Department when he asked the officials concerned to link major tourist centres including Lucknow, Mathura, Vrindavan, Ayodhya, Prayag (Allahabad), Vindhyachal, Naimisharanya, Chitrakoot, Kushinagar and Varanasi and other places of tourist importance with helicopter service, an official spokesman said here on Friday.
The chief minister instructed during the presentation late last night that the civil aviation department should link these places with the help of public-private participation.