Rajat Sharma

Jewar Airport: Will it change the fortunes of western UP?

akb2711Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday performed the ‘bhoomi poojan’ (ground breaking) ceremony of Asia’s largest international airport at Jewar in Uttar Pradesh. Lakhs of people from Noida, Ghaziabad, Aligarh, Bulandshahar, Agra, Mathura and Meerut gathered at the meeting to hear Modi saying that this airport would change the fortunes of people living in western UP. It should be noted that a large number of farmers sitting on dharna at Delhi’s Ghazipur border are from western UP. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told the meeting that the Jewar airport would change the future of this region in the coming years.

Spread over 6,200 hectares of land, this international airport will be built at a cost of Rs 30,000 crore and would provide jobs to nearly one lakh people in western UP, Modi said. Jewar will become the world’s fourth largest international airport. After Jewar airport is ready, Delhi NCR will become India’s first city to have three airports within a range of 70 km. At present, there is the Indira Gandhi international airport in Delhi and an airport in Hindon, Ghaziabad for domestic flights. People living in 30 districts of western UP, and in Faridabad, Palwal, and Ballabhgarh of Haryana will benefit, once the Jewar airport is functional.

In the first phase, a terminal and a runway will be built on 1,334 hectares of land and will be ready by 2024. After that, five more runways will be built in different phases. The Centre’s target is to start flight operations to nine Indian cities and Dubai by September, 2024. Swiss company Zurich International Airport AG will develop this airport.

India’s biggest aircraft maintenance centre MRO(Maintenance, Repair and Operations) will be built in Jewar. At present, there is only a small MRO centre in Nagpur. Normally, aeroplanes are sent from India for repairs, overhauling and maintenance abroad at an annual cost of nearly Rs 15,000 crore. When the Jewar airport will be complete, 178 planes can be parked in hangars.

Modi said, Jewar airport will connect western UP to the entire world. He said, this airport should have been ready much earlier, but previous governments in UP failed to achieve the deadline. Modi reminded how people of UP used to hear taunts from people of other states because of its poverty and backwardness. He said, the people of UP used to wonder when their image would get a makeover.

“There used to be taunts on poverty, taunts on casteist politics, taunts over thousands of crores worth scams, taunts over poor roads, taunts over lack of industries and taunts over mafia leaders in politics, but now the situation is changing for the better”, Modi said. People were misled by false dreams, he added.

It is true that Modi is known for his acumen of completing projects. He often says that whenever he lays the foundation of any project, he ensures that he would inaugurate the same within a fixed deadline. For the last two decades, Modi has been occupying Constitutional posts, and records vouch for his claim.

Before starting a project, Modi fixes the deadline for its completion and then works accordingly. On Thursday, Modi pointed out how former rulers in UP used to lay foundation stones for projects without doing actual groundwork. Jewar airport is an example. The ‘bhoomi poojan’ ceremony took place only after the entire groundwork like land acquisition, etc. was completed.

Modi said, had CM Yogi wanted, he could have performed the Bhoomi Poojan in 2017 but did not do so, since the groundwork was not complete. He said, earlier infra projects used to be announced in a hurry without doing proper groundwork, and as a result, the cost of projects used to spiral as work lingered on. “For us, infrastructure is not politics (rajneeti), it is state policy (rashtra-neeti)”, Modi said. There is a provision for fines if work on the project is delayed, he added.

It is easy to understand why Modi said this. Former chief minister Mayawati claimed in a tweet on Thursday that the Jewar airport project was cleared during her tenure and that the BJP was taking credit for launching an incomplete work. Mayawati said, it was during her tenure that land acquisition from farmers began, and BJP is now tomtoming it as its achievement by holding rallies. Modi knew such claims would be made by former rulers.

Modi said, it is true that the Jewar airport project is 20 years old and the first plans were ready when Rajnath Singh was the chief minister of UP. He pointed out that governments of Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav came, but not a single brick was laid for the airport. Modi said, this was because state governments delayed the work, and the former UPA government at the Centre too delayed the project. “Now that UP has got a double engine government, both at the Centre and in the state, work on the project moved faster”, Modi said.

The plan for an international airport and aviation hub at Jewar was prepared by the then Chief Minister Rajnath Singh’s government in 2001. Mayawati became CM in 2002, and since BJP was then its ally, she tried to out the project on a fast pace. In 2004, the government changed, and when Mulayam Singh Yadav became the CM, he tried to take the airport project to Agra. The Congress-led UPA government at the Centre put the project in cold storage citing distance issues, and 20 years later, the dream has at last come true.

Modi also pointed to one more issue. He said, acquiring several thousands of hectares of land from farmers was not an easy task. He said, persuading farmers to part with their land, giving them proper compensation, keeping them in good humour, and then without speed breakers, doing the take-off, was not a mean achievement.

This is the region where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had launched his Bhatta Parsaul farmers’ agitation in 2015 and had courted arrest. Because of his agitation, the government had to withdraw the Land Acquisition Bill. The government made changes in land acquisition law, and only then, the farmers of Bhatta Parsaul parted with their land. In return, the government gave them compensation more than what the farmers had expected. That is why, Modi said, Yogi Adityanath completed the work in four years, what previous governments could not do in 14 years. He offered a big Thank You to farmers and described the CM as ‘KarmaYogi’ in his speech.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, in hi speech, too, thanked the farmers and said, western UP used to be famous for its sweet sugarcane, but during previous rule, it became infamous for communal riots, but now, this region will increase the sweetness of sugarcane again, and will force ‘Jinnahwadis’(Jinnah supporters) and rioters to flee from this region.

The physical chemistry between Modi and Yogi, as depicted in the famous photograph that went viral on social media, in which the PM had put his left hand on the shoulder of the UP CM, was best described by experienced politician and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at a party workers meeting in Sitapur on Thursday. Describing Yogi as a good batsman who makes runs at a fast pace, Rajnath Singh said, “in this picture, Modi, while putting his arm on Yogi’s shoulder, was telling him in his ears to go on batting at a fast pace. If Yogi bats faster, BJP is bound to win.”

I agree with Rajnath Singh that Yogi Adityanath is behaving like a T20 cricket batter who is making runs at a fast pace, scoring fours and sixes. He is regularly getting accolades from Prime Minister Modi. On Thursday too, Modi said, Yogi did the work in four years, which others could not do in 14 years.

Modi’s speech in Jewar had a political message for Yogi too. By saying that earlier people of UP used to hear taunts over poverty and backwardness, Modi was indirectly telling that Yogi has now given UP a positive image makeover. By speaking about double engine government in UP, Modi was telling voters that if they voted for Yogi, they should be rest assured that they would get his (Modi’s) support too.

For now, Modi and Yogi seem to have changed the electoral scenario in UP and have put political rivals on the defensive. The Bhoomi Poojan of Jewar international airport was one major step in this direction.

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