Over the past several decades till the Yogi government came to power, Uttar Pradesh became a byword for misgovernance and humiliatingly low development compared to the All-India level of development. Given its humongous size, however, the extent of development varies within the state itself. The area often making headlines for all the wrong reasons within Uttar Pradesh is Bundelkhand- the region that borders the state of Madhya Pradesh and has been largely infamous for droughts and dacoits.
Modi government has made it a point to reach out to the most underdeveloped regions in the country. On similar lines, it has now given a healing touch to Bundelkhand. On Saturday, PM Modi laid the foundation stone of the 296 km long Bundelkhand Expressway and made it clear that it will prove to be the development expressway of the region.
The Expressway will pass through Chitrakoot, Banda, Hamirpur and Jalaun districts of the region. This Expressway will be a game-changer for the region in the sense that it will link Bundelkhand to the National Capital, Delhi through the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and further through the Yamuna Expressway.
Laying the foundation stone for this ambitious project, PM Modi said, “This project will take Bundelkhand on the path of development, it will prove to be the development expressway of the region and definitely change peoples lives in this entire region.”
He added, “To come up at a cost of around Rs 15,000 crores, this project will create thousands of job opportunities and connect the common people with facilities in bigger cities.”
Speaking of the project, PM Modi also alluded to the backwardness of the Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh. He said, “You must have seen in the past decades how in the name of Bundelkhand and farmers, packages worth thousands of crores of rupees were announced but farmers did not benefit.”
The Prime Minister also said, “But now the country has come out of that phase and every single paise is reaching its right beneficiary.”
Not just the Expressway, the Modi government has also planned the Uttar Pradesh Defence Corridor which is going to get supplemented with this Expressway. The Prime Minister said “a provision of Rs 3,700 crore has been made for the Uttar Pradesh Defence Corridor in this year’s budget. These two schemes (Defence Corridor and Expressway) have a deep relationship. The Bundelkhand Expressway will give speed to Uttar Pradesh Defence Corridor.”
What PM Modi has said about the issue of farmers and backwardness in the region indeed finds corroboration in empirical data. Spread over 70,000 sq. km across 13 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the region is infamous as the worst place in India to be a farmer.
Things have slid down further in the last two decades. From 2003 to 2010, there was a wave of droughts in the region pulverising its farm sector. It was further hit by floods in 2011, deficient and late monsoon in 2012 and 2013, and finally another drought in the year 2014. For a region that has always been known for its backwardness and poverty, this wave of droughts has a blighting effect. Droughts remain a major issue in the region with several areas receiving less than 750 mm rainfall.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that in terms of human development also, the region lags behind the rest of the state. The poorest of districts are located here with a mean asset index lower than any other region in Uttar Pradesh.
Moreover, the mean proportion of asset-poor households (those without any of the assets specified in the census) is also worryingly higher in Bundelkhand compared with the rest of Uttar Pradesh. Comparisons are of course drawn with the much more prosperous region of Western Uttar Pradesh which fares much better on all levels, showing the kind of inter-regional imbalance that the state is suffering from. Even in other determinants, such as amenities index and consumption expenditure there is a huge gap between Western Uttar Pradesh and Bundelkhand.
The Expressway might change the face of the region, especially by ensuring quick and seamless connectivity to other, more prosperous regions in Uttar Pradesh and also the National Capital by connecting the region to other Expressways in Uttar Pradesh that further lead up to Delhi.
This new era of connectivity will create a bundle of economic opportunities, especially in the transportation sector apart from the thousands of jobs that the development of the Expressway will by itself create. With the Purvanchal Expressway, the region is set to break out of the decades of poverty and misery that have plagued the region.
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