Expressway and roads to growth

Some of the issues impeding economic growth and preventing Uttar Pradesh from entering the league of India’s developed and industrialised states are the lack of roads, energy deficit, a weak policy framework, and the absence of a conducive investment climate.

Soon after assuming power in March 2012, the Samajwadi Party (SP) government took up road infrastructure projects on priority, to spur growth in the peripheries, in the form of newer townships, mandis and development clusters.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s mantra: “If you can double the speed, you can treble the economy”.

The 302-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway, a flagship road project, was launched with an estimated cost of nearly Rs 15,000 crore. It is being funded by the state under the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) route, after the project failed to take off under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

The expressway will provide seamless connectivity between state capital Lucknow and the National Capital Region (NCR) via the Yamuna Expressway from Agra to Greater Noida.

The state government is considering a similar expressway from Ballia to Lucknow, to connect the weaker eastern Uttar Pradesh with Lucknow and the NCR, through the other two expressways.

Addressing the fifth edition of the Samriddhi 2015 conference, organised by Business Standard Hindi in Lucknow on February 7, Uttar Pradesh Public Works Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav reiterated that roads and infrastructure were priorities for the state government.

As the chief guest, he underlined the plan to connect district headquarters with four-lane highways, and said UP was building the expressway with its own resources. The project is slated to be completed by the end of 2016.

The government is also working on several bridge projects, both new and pending.

On February 11, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav unveiled the UP development agenda for 2015-16. This is to serve as a policy framework guide for officials in various departments, to tune their activities for achieving the targets.

The agenda spans nine departments – energy, industry, finance, agriculture, human resource development, medical, social, rural development and urban development.

Now, milestones for each department will be set in line with the development agenda, so that quarterly targets could be achieved and assessed.

In his address, the CM had mentioned the first two years of his regime were focused on fulfilling pre-poll promises to the people.

Meanwhile, the government is looking at public and private investment of about Rs 1,10,000 crore in power generation, transmission and distribution projects over the next two years.

The state has been aggressively promoting ‘Brand UP’, in association with industry bodies, and seeking the help of non-resident Indians (NRIs). A separate NRI department has been created for this.

The Samriddhi 2015 also had a panel discussion, among state chief secretary Alok Ranjan, UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Navneet Sehgal, State Bank of India Chief General Manager Karnam Sekar and Banaras Beads Managing Director Ashok Gupta. They discussed industry, finance, infrastructure, taxation, rebates and skill development.

Ranjan said IT Parks would be set up in Agra and Varanasi. While the state wanted equitable development, it provided incentives for industrial development in the weak-economy regions of eastern UP and the Bundelkhand region, he added.

Ranjan assured UP would consider providing air connectivity to Kanpur, which has the highest number of industrial units in central and eastern UP and contributes a large chunk of revenues to the state exchequer.

He talked about rationalising the tax structure for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Meanwhile, Sehgal informed 92 per cent of land for the Agra-Lucknow Expressway had been acquired and the process for the rest was on.

“We have identified spots to develop four townships along the expressway and to set up four agricultural mandis to support the agricultural sector and traditional industries at places like Kannauj and Ferozabad,” he said.

He said UP State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) had identified 1,000 hectares near Kannauj as catchment for the Agra-Lucknow Expressway.

Sekar said SBI had clocked 15 per cent growth in advances to industry in UP and the bank was flush with liquidity to support additional demand for loans. SBI had set up special branches to cater to the needs of small and medium corporate entities.

Gupta urged the government to focus on eastern UP, especially Varanasi, so that the region came on a par with the rest of the state on the parameters of infrastructure development and employment.

He suggested the Udyog Bandhu, the UP government’s industry interface, be given more teeth and powers to redress irritants faced by industrialists.