In the area, Uttar Pradesh is double the size of England; and in population, only five countries in the world can beat the state's population. Being a parliamentarian from Uttar Pradesh for two decades, Yogi Adityanath had this clear cognisance that only world-class infrastructure and connectivity can make the state prosperous. So, in 2017, when he took the oath of office, he took the challenge head-on. Within the first few weeks, he sat at the drawing board with his team and charted out the journey of a new Uttar Pradesh. What we have observed by 2021 is not less than a miracle.
We should give credit wherever it's due. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) built the 165-km Greater Noida-Agra Expressway. The Samajwadi Party (SP) built the 302-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway. So, in the 15 years of the BSP-SP rule, the people of Uttar Pradesh got 467 km of expressways, limited to western UP.
In contrast, Yogi Adityanath has taken the expressway network to a completely different level. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 341 km of Purvanchal Expressway in November 2021, connecting nine districts of hitherto neglected eastern Uttar Pradesh. The main carriageway of the 300 km Bundelkhand Expressway connecting seven districts of the Bundelkhand region will be operational by January 2022. By these two massive green-field projects, the Yogi government has added a whopping 641 km to the expressways' road infrastructure in the state.
But this is not all. With the 600-km Ganga Expressway and the 91-km Gorakhpur Link Expressway, Uttar Pradesh will enter a different league of high-quality road networks across the country. About 98 percent of land for Ganga Expressway has already been acquired and a bidding process is on. Ganga Expressway will connect the state's western region to the eastern and will run through 12 districts. Around these expressways, the Yogi government planned nodes of defence corridors and invited defence equipment manufacturers to the state. In 2020, even Prime Minister Modi praised Chief Minister Adityanath that Uttar Pradesh is becoming an 'Express State' under his leadership.
Uttar Pradesh will soon become the only state in the country to have five international airports. Today, it has international airports in Lucknow and Varanasi. The Yogi government is working on three new international airports at Kushinagar, Jewar and Ayodhya
Winds of positive change have also swept the aviation sector. In 2017, the state had flights to only 25 national and international destinations and, in 2021, UP has almost tripled this number and has flights to 71 destinations — 59 national and 12 international destinations. In 2017, UP had four functioning airports — Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Agra — out of which only Lucknow and Varanasi were handling international flights to limited routes. By 2021, the state has eight functioning airports, with many more routes. The new additions are Kanpur, Bareilly, Prayagraj, and Hindon airports.
Along with activating new airports, the traffic to and from existing airports has increased in the last four years. For example, from Varanasi, flights were available for only one international and seven national destinations till 2017, which have gone up to five international and 15 national destinations. In 2017, only one flight was available from Gorakhpur (to Delhi). Today, the Gorakhpur airport offers flights to eight destinations. Similarly, flights from Agra have increased from one to five destinations since 2017. Along with these, up-gradation and development work at eight more domestic airports in Agra, Saharanpur, Aligarh, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Shravasti, Chitrakoot and Sonbhadra is on.
Uttar Pradesh will soon become the only state in the country to have five international airports. Today, it has international airports in Lucknow and Varanasi. The Yogi government is working on three new international airports at Kushinagar, Jewar and Ayodhya. The international airport at Kushinagar is almost complete and is ready for operations. This will drastically increase the tourism from the Buddhist countries, as Kushinagar is one of the very important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, where they believe Gautam Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana after his death. The work for the Jewar airport in Gautam Budh Nagar and the international airport in Ayodhya has already started.
"In the last four years, Yogi Adityanath has taken Uttar Pradesh's infrastructure to a completely new orbit and coupled with tightened law and order, it has immensely helped bring the industry back to the state"
Yogi knew that along with air road connectivity, the supply of uninterrupted electricity is one of the important factors for the ease of doing business for the industry, and ease of living for people. With that in mind, in the very first year, he launched the 'Power for All' drive and massively upgraded the power infrastructure in the state.
Under his 'Paryapt Bijli' mission, for the first time in the history of Uttar Pradesh, the state targeted 24 hours of electricity at district headquarters, 20 hours at tehsils and 18 hours at villages. When reviewed in 2021, Yogi's team almost touched this steep target. In the period of 2017-21, the average duration of daily power supply in rural areas was 17.43 hours, the average duration of daily power supply in tehsil areas was 20.41 hours, and the average duration of daily power supply in district headquarters was 23.14 hours.
If we compare this to an average daily power supply during the previous SP government (2012-17), it was a drastic change. In Yogi's tenure, the average daily increase in power supply in district headquarters is 3 hours and 51 minutes, in tehsils, it is 1 hour and 14 minutes and, in the rural area, it is five hours 18 minutes, respectively. Five hours of extra electricity upgraded the living standards of rural Uttar Pradesh drastically. In urban areas, around four hours of extra electricity reduced the personal and industrial power backup bills.
Under the Yogi rule, Uttar Pradesh has created a long-term tied-up capacity of around 27,000 MW with various power plants in and outside the state. As per plans, the current capacity will further increase to around 34,500 MW soon. In 2016-17 under the SP regime, UP was transmitting 16,110 MW of power and, in contrast under Yogi, the peak demand of 24,926 MW was met on 30 June 2021. It was a 54 percent jump in demand and transmission capacity. This is unprecedented. In the last four years, 673 substations have been added to the distribution system and the capacity of 1,347 substations has been augmented. In 2016-17, UP only had 3,817 substations; by 2020-21, the state government ensured 673 more substations, taking the total number to 4,490. In the last four years, apart from the new 673 substations, 1,347 substations have been augmented. The Yogi government now works on corporate-like service level agreements (SLA) to rectify any malfunctioning transformer within 24 hours in urban areas and 48 hours in rural areas.
In the last four years, Yogi Adityanath has taken Uttar Pradesh's infrastructure to a completely new orbit and coupled with tightened law and order, it has immensely helped bring the industry back to the state. And by 2021, this started reflecting in national indices.
Today, Uttar Pradesh has become second in the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) ranking, leaving many industrialised states behind. Under Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh has become the second-largest state of India in Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), surging ahead of industrialised states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. As per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report released in March 2021, coinciding with Yogi's fourth year in office, the unemployment rate of Uttar Pradesh dipped to 4.1 percent in 2021 compared to 17.5 percent before 2017. By 2021, the state has doubled the per capita income of its citizens — from Rs 43,000 per year in 2015-16 to Rs 95,000 a year in 2021.
One wonders if all this will be enough for the Adityanath government's electoral success in the Assembly elections next year.
Shantanu Gupta is a political commentator and also the author of 'The Monk who transformed Uttar Pradesh'. Views expressed are personal. Originally appeared in the Firstpost.