One can travel from Delhi to Agra in two to three hours on the 165.5-km road

After encountering several road blocks and witnessing one of the fiercest farmers’ agitations over compensation of land in 2010 and 2011 that led to a police firing in which about half-a-dozen people were killed, the 165.537 km-long Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway was inaugurated by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav via video-link on Thursday.

At the Noida end, the formalities were completed by Samajwadi Party national general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav. He flagged off vehicles on the six-lane, access-controlled expressway, on which one can travel from Delhi to Agra in two to three hours instead of four to five hours. Vehicles can move at a speed of 120 kilometres per hour.

The expressway, developed by Jaiparakash Associates, billed as the longest access controlled expressway in the country.

Mr. Akhilesh Yadav put an end to speculations over the fate of the other expressway in the State — the 1047-km-long Ballia-Noida Ganga Expressway, saying the Samajwadi Party was not in favour of constructing it.

The project, launched in December 2008, was the former Chief Minister, Mayawati’s most ambitious scheme.

Farmers’ agitation

In 2010 and 2011, the Yamuna Expressway, previously called the Taj Expressway, had become synonymous with farmers’ politics in western Uttar Pradesh as farmers launched an agitation demanding more compensation for the land they sacrificed for the project. The long-drawn agitation spread across Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh and Agra districts, with Tappal, Jikarpur and Bhatta Parsaul emerging as the nerve centres of the agitation.

As the Mayawati government fought back, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party went on an overdrive to take advantage of the situation.

Mr. Akhilesh Yadav recalled the situation and spoke of the cycle yatra he had undertaken to express solidarity with the agitating farmers of Bhatta-Parsaul and Tappal.

He said heavy security was deployed by the previous regime and “yatris” were deterred from pedalling on the expressway. “Eventually we cycled for about 90 km on the service lane.” He expressed satisfaction that the highway had become functional despite “facing several obstacles”.

Cases to be withdrawn

The Chief Minister said cases registered against the farmers who participated in the agitation would be withdrawn. While cases against 24 farmers of Tappal were withdrawn by the present regime in April 2012, the ones against other farmers, including those of Bhatta Parsaul, would be withdrawn soon.

Mr. Yadav announced that land for projects would not be acquired without farmers’ consent.

He stressed on need for good roads in the backward Purvanchal and Bundelkhand regions for their development. He said no toll tax would be levied on the expressway from Noida to Greater Noida and this road would not be included in the expressway .

Possible extension

On the possible extension of the expressway till Lucknow (by aligning it with the proposed Agra- Lucknow Green Field Expressway), Executive Chairman of JP Group Manoj Gaur said the group was ready to undertake the project, if given an opportunity by the government.

No toll tax till August 15

He announced that no toll tax would be levied till August 15 and that an integrated complex would be developed along the expressway under the Social Upliftment Trust.

The project was conceptualised in 2003 and it took nine years to develop it. It has three main toll plazas and six inter changes.