By Taazakhabar News Bureau
A roof over the head and the right to live peacefully within the confines one’s home and to carry out ones business or profession within the ambit of law is a basic human right guaranteed by the constitution of India and other International conventions.
The Eastern Peripheral Expressway is today causing sorrow and making thousands of people lose their smile at every mile.
In 1957 Sir Cyril Radcliffe, left a mess when he was asked to draw an arbitrary line on the map dividing 175,000 square miles of territory and some 88 million people. This is exactly what is happening again today when people involved with the design and layout of the highway are doing everything using google maps- without even visiting the site are trying to carve out a highway that is turning out to be a death penalty for the people it is supposed to serve. Just like Redcliff’s line is causing confusion between India and Pakistan – while making provision for this highway, the land was not properly surveyed on the ground to ensure that buildings, temples, mosques and other places of public interest were not adversely affected.
The purpose of a highway is to settle people and improve their quality of life- not to uproot and unsettle their lives and the future of their children.
When it started the stated objective behind the Eastern Peripheral Expressway was to decongest the traffic in Delhi. This was indeed a noble cause, but in the so-called urgency to construct the highway many blatant wrongs, excesses and illegitimate acts were committed.
To save Delhi or decongest Delhi you cannot violate the rights of the people in adjoining states.
Many vested interests allegedly tried to exploit the situation as it gave them seemingly unlimited and unquestionable power to acquire land and bend rules whenever and wherever they wanted.
This goes against India’s national policy of bahujan hitay, bahujan sukhay (for the welfare and happiness of the many). Instead we have a situation of kuch jan hitay, bahujan dukhay (benefit to some, sorrow for many).
The result is that the Expressway is more than nine years late. Delhi has not gained from it, but at the same time people in the state of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh from where this Expressway is to pass — have lost even the constitutional right to live.
Ironically, many of the people facing an uncertain future due to the construction of the highway are extremely poor, belonging to scheduled castes and backward communities.
The issue gives rise to the question — what is the crime of people- farmers, industrialists and others who purchased land and duely paid registry charges to the government for it besides developing nearby infrastructure – only to be told a few years later that the land needs to now be acquired for an Expressway? Why was this possibility not made clear to them when they purchased the land or got it registered in their name? Now, why could the path of the expressway not be adjusted to ensure minimum damage?
This is the reason for the massive delays and project cost overruns.
Significantly a subcommittee of technical experts like A.V. Sinha DG, (Road Development) and Tribhuwan Ram E-in-C UP PWD had recommended a reduction of the interchange loop radius of 130 m to 100 m. “Thus the subcommittee is of the view that the 100 meters, loop radius proposed by NHAI meets all technical requirements as far as loop radius is concerned” the subcommittee recommended.
Accordingly the NHAI vide its letter dated March 14, 2011 asked SPAN Consultants to prepare a modified design.
In the meanwhile a CBI inquiry in Oct 2011 also found nothing wrong in reducing the loop radius from 130 to 100 ms. The CBI did not find any irregularity either in design or technical soundness.
This notwithstanding the 21st Monitoring Committee bypassed the decision taken by the techical experts and decided to once again go for the 130 mtr radius. “After detailed discussions the monitoring committee decided to adopt the original design with the loop radius of 130 mtr and to drop the modiofied design involving constructon of C D lane on expressway with loop radius of 100 mtr”
The plea taken by the Monitoring Committee was that,”modifying the design only on one location is not a fair treatment of all those locations where original design had been adopted”.
This also goes against the tenor of the stand taken by the NHAI in its letter to Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways dated 24th March 2011,”Chairman of the Monitoring Committee opined that one has to take a site specific decision keeping in view the land availability and permissible technical parameters. Therefore the Monitoring Committee felt that being a technical matter the recommendation of sub-committee headed by a technical person can be accepted.”
The issue is –can a group of IAS officers bypass the recommendation by a committee of experts who have spent their life studying just roads and highways? Can a well-considered decision taken by a group of experts be overturned without any justifiable cause?
Is there a need to unnecessarily bulldoze buildings and farmers fields – when lots of land is available at much cheaper rates elsewhere. What does NHAI gain in the process? By doing so it could avoid unnecessary litigation and will not have to pay more compensations for additional land acquisitions.