People living in a large swathe of Chitrakoot district need only to step out of their homes to see what the gap between promise and reality looks like.
A four-lane expressway in backward Bundelkhand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated on July 16 has developed wide cracks within days, a government engineer has acknowledged.
At least three small bridges on the expressway too have caved in, and soil erosion has damaged the sides of the road at many places, residents said.
Dedicating the 296km Bundelkhand Expressway to the people, Modi had said in Jalaun that it would “open new avenues for the youth and take the region fast on the path of development”.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had said the expressway would prove a milestone in design and strength.
On Sunday, a state PWD engineer overseeing repairs of a particular crevice said a 79km stretch of the expressway in Chitrakoot district had developed 20 cracks.
A banner featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the inauguration of the Bundelkhand Expressway in Jalaun on July 16. It says: “Bundelkhand Expressway. A symbol of progress. Our Bundelkhand, our pride.” PTI picture
Mayank Kumar, a resident of neighbouring Banda district who said his work required him to frequently take the expressway, said: “A small bridge in village Mawai on the expressway caved in on Sunday morning. Two more bridges on the expressway in (Chitrakoot) district had collapsed on Saturday.”
“Soil erosion on the sides of the expressway has at some places resulted in damage to the road,” he added.
The PWD engineer, asking not to be quoted, told local reporters: “The roads and bridges caved in or developed cracks because of excessive rain. The repairs would be completed in two or three days. We have deployed 500 labourers for the job.”
Modi during an exhibition at the inauguration of the Bundelkhand Expressway on July 16. PTI picture
He didn’t explain why a new expressway inaugurated in the monsoon season should get damaged at the first hint of rain. Local people said rainfall had been less than normal this past week.
The PWD engineer, however, admitted that the expressway getting damaged so quickly was alarming.
“Our senior officers will say something conclusive on this issue. I’m told a departmental inquiry into the poor quality of the expressway is already on,” he said.
An image of the aerial view of the Bundelkhand Expressway tweeted by Modi before its inauguration. PTI picture
Varun Gandhi, BJP leader and Pilibhit MP, had on Thursday tweeted a picture of a wide crack on the expressway with the text: “The Rs 15,000-crore expressway couldn’t sustain for five days in rain.”
An engineer with a private firm who has worked on projects of the National Highways Authority of India told The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity that “such cracks and damage happen when we try to complete a road in insufficient time”.
“Despite the expressway’s thickness being 1.1 metres, it would get damaged quickly if there is space for water to enter beneath the surface,” he said.
“When we make such roads, we are expected to give at least one year for the concrete and metal to settle, and to keep regular watch.”
A damaged road on the Bundelkhand Expressway on July 21, five days after the inauguration. PTI picture
But this does not happen because of political pressure, he said.
“Water mostly enters just below the road surface near culverts above which there are minor bridges. Regular repairs are needed at such places for the first one or two years,” the engineer said.
“I think the Bundelkhand Expressway was incomplete when it was opened to the public. There should be fully grown grass on the slopes on both sides of such roads to stop soil erosion during rain. But there are no grass banks along this expressway at the moment.”
Local people said parts of the expressway were still being built in Banda and Chitrakoot districts when Modi inaugurated it.
The expressway runs from Bharatkoop village in Chitrakoot to Kudrail village in Etawah district, from where it joins the Lucknow-Agra Expressway.