By AJIT CHAK :┬áThe Uttar Pradesh government and its plans to set up a network of express highways across the state and reward huge compensations to those possessing properties along the alignment of the highways is a laudable one no doubt as it does cut down on the travel time the rich take to commute from one city to another in the state or reach the national capital from the state capital.
However these highways are a failure on several other fronts. The state government could have utilised these highways to generate a huge amount of solar energy to tide over the power crisis in the state by planting panels across the length of the highways on either side. A sum of money was to be set aside for planting fruit trees along the express ways too so that it could provide some employment for local people and nesting for birds etc in the region. This was mooted by none other than the Minister himself Nitin Gadkari, but the proposal came a cropper.
For the public to expect such a degree of enlightenment and concern from those sitting in power is too much of a good thing. However, the bare minimum is expected from a highway in terms of facilities.
The Yamuna Expressway is a text book example of how a highway should not be planned or run and god forbid but it seems the Taj Expressway is being planned on similar lines too.
For a state like Uttar Pradesh which has a vast range of cuisine and several snacks and eatables the Yamuna Expressway provides the most inedible of all snacks and the restaurants and dhabas set up alongside the roads lack even the basic courtesy when it comes to serving travellers. Woe betides you if you have decided to travel late, because you will get nothing to eat on the highway at night. For those who were used to travelling by highways and eating in the dhabas of yore the entire process of providing food on the highway smacks of unprofessionalism. To make matters worse the eateries reek of overuse of chemicals and insecticides possibly to ward off insects from the neighbouring fields.
This is a sorry state of affairs indeed for travellers who are forced to pay a hefty amount as toll, to use these roads to reach one point in the state from another.
There is a way out though. There are several areas where the expressway and the road are almost at the same level. The government could acquire these chunks and invite more parties to set up roadside dhabas and hotels. There was a time when Reliance had set up a wonderful chain of A-One plazas on the road along with their petrol pumps. The pumps however wound up as the Congress government refused to change the policy regarding subsidy to diesel making the Reliance fuel pumps more expensive.
The Dhabas too collapsed soon and the public was deprived of a wonderful highway luxury which included clean bathrooms.
The government should not get into the mode of using big corporate entities for this venture and should approach the hotel chains of Lucknow for the same. Uttar Pradesh is known for its vast range of food and this could be easily tapped by approaching the big names in this business who will make highway eateries a success. To name a few there are Kalika Hut, Koolbreak, Royal Cafe and Tunday Kebabi who are the market leaders in the state capital today. There are vegetarian chains like Moti Mahal, Durgama Hotel and others like Radhey Lal Parampara and Chotte Lal and Chappan Bhog and Net Ram Halwai. All the government has to do is beckon and they will come.