Updated: March 12, 2021 3:04:36 pm
THREE months after Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav inaugurated the 207-km cycle highway between Agra and Etawah — Asia’s first such highway — reconstruction has been ordered on at least 15 patches between 4 and 5 metres each in length following cracks. With the BJP using the cracks to punch holes in the Samajwadi Party’s election plank of development, the Public Works Department that comes under Akhilesh has ordered an inquiry. The cycle highway runs parallel to the main highway and is about 7-feet wide and crosses 92 villages. At the inauguration, Akhilesh had hailed the Rs 134-crore project as first of its kind and a “historical moment”, saying he had been inspired by trips to foreign cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, where people use cycles extensively to commute. The government had also claimed that the cycle highway would boost tourism in the Agra-Chambal-Etawah region. A rally of 90 cyclists from five countries and across India had followed the inauguration ceremony on November 27.
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PWD officials said they were forced to rush the work on the cycle stretch, with the CM announcing an inauguration date of November 27. PWD Executive Engineer Ajay Kumar Rathore said the project was sanctioned on June 1, 2016, and officially completed on November 26.
PWD officials also admit that the cracks are serious.
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“We needed at least one year to complete the project. The cement concrete road needs 20 days alone to get dry. This road cannot be constructed in extreme weather conditions as cement gets dry faster than bituminous. However, we had no option but to work during peak summers and during rains,” said a PWD official, on condition of anonymity.
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Local BJP worker Ashok Kushwaha first wrote to the PWD in Agra about the cracks on the cycle highway, leading to the probe. Kushwaha has alleged that poor quality construction material was used in the construction.
PWD Chief Engineer Rajan Mittal said the probe is being conducted by a five-member team. “It will submit its report soon,” said Mittal. The contractor, Santosh Kumar Sharma, has been asked to repair the patches over which cracks developed.
The state government had spent Rs 134 crore on development of the cycle highway.
Along the way fall destinations such as Naugava ka Quila, Raja Bhoj ki Haveli and Bateshwarnath Temple in Agra, while the highway ends next to the Etawah Lion Safari, a dream project of former SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Kushwaha also pointed out that the cycle highway was not used for the purpose for which it was built.
“Bikes, tractors, buffaloes and everything cross the cycle highway except bicycles. Almost a kilometre long stretch in Fatehabad is covered with a thick layer of slippery mud in which you cannot walk, let alone cycle.”
At many stretches along the highway, cattle belonging to nearby villagers roam on the loose and children can be seen playing. Many other animals are just left tied there.
“Dyakho ko chalat hai ehema (Look, who is walking on it),” laughs Chunni Devi, an elderly women in Kutakpur village in Fatehabad, making cow dung cakes right in the middle of the cycle track.
As a tractor trolley races down from Etawah on the track, she shifts to make way.
But Chunni Devi is happy. She says the track has proved very handy for villagers such as her. “My son used to take hours to reach home from fields as the road was poor. Now he reaches in half the time. Tractors run faster on this road.”
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