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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Taj Express Way and the Taj corridor

Infrastructure development is the key to development and good roads are paths to industrial progress. The road to Taj -    Taj corridor is in the news !!

Yamuna Expressway, formerly known as Taj Expressway, has been opened to public and there are many comments on the  6-lane (extendable to 8 lanes), 165 km long, controlled-access expressway, connecting Greater Noida with Agra.  The total project cost  is reportedly around   12,839 crore (US$2.32 billion).   The Yamuna Expressway was formally inaugurated on 9 August 2012 by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav,  about two years ahead of its original target completion date.  The project spreading to 165 km long and rigid concrete pavements, 5 toll plazas, 36 underpasses, 1 rail over bridge – a major bridge and 42 minor bridges and 70 vehicular underpasses.  Yamuna Expressway has SOS booths along the route besides a toll free helpline. CCTV cameras are installed every 5 km along the expressway for safety and accident assistance; mobile radars to monitor compliance with minimum and maximum speed limits; and one highway patrol every 25 km. The Expressway is expected to be used by over 100,000 vehicles every day, and reduce travel times between Greater Noida and Agra from 4 hours to 100 minutes.

On a different plane, the Expressway is viewed as another worry for the Taj Mahal, already battling pollution and signs of decay. The expressway — opened on August 9 — has almost doubled the weekend visitors to the Taj, pushing the Archaeological Survey of India into asking the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) to conduct an environment-impact study pending since 2006.  In 2006, the Supreme Court had directed a carrying-capacity study to de-stress the Taj.  A study has begun to gauge the impact of the increased tourist flow on temperature and humidity — a rise in both or even one can cause  damage.

The term Taj Corridor actually is not about this Expressway but – ‘ Taj Heritage Corridor case’  is an alleged scam wherein 2002–2003, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati and a minister in her government, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, were charged with corruption. The Taj Corridor project was intended to upgrade tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal and was to be implemented during her tenure as Chief Minister. The then BJP government at the Centre gave the Environmental Clearance required for the project near Taj Mahal. However, later on the BJP backed out and then started saying that the project was not cleared by the Environment Ministry and blamed Mayawati for starting construction work near the Taj Mahal.

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court  recently  started final hearing on PILs seeking direction for initiation of proceedings of criminal case against former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati and her cabinet colleague Naseemuddin Siddiqui in alleged Taj Corridor scam.  It may be recalled that the special CBI court had dropped the proceedings against Mayawati and Naseemuddin due to lack of prosecution sanction, which was not granted by the then governor. After this three PILs were filed in 2009 challenging the decision of the CBI court. Later three more PILs were filed in this connection. Hearing in all the six PILs  would continue

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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