NEW DELHI: Among the measures taken by the government to handle Delhi’s pollution problem was a six-lane expressway that would allow about two lakh vehicles, including trucks and commercial traffic, to bypass the national capital. The much-awaited Eastern Peripheral Expressway will also reduce congestion and provide seamless connectivity beyond Delhi. The high-speed corridor, ready now, was expected to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April.
“Why was it not done then?” asked the Supreme Court. “Why are we waiting for the Prime Minister to inaugurate it?” the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta hearing a case relating to Delhi Pollution said today.
The Meghalaya High Court has been working for five years without an official inauguration, top court noted and said, “why should the Eastern Corridor wait”.
The top court has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to ensure that the new expressway is thrown open on or before May 31, with or without its formal inauguration.
“Delhi is already under traffic distress and any delays will not be in the interest of the people,” the bench added.
The NHAI counsel told the court that the expressway was scheduled to be inaugurated by April 29, but it could not be done due to PM Modi’s prior commitments.
After his UK, China tour, PM Modi headed for Karnataka for the high-voltage Assembly polls scheduled for Saturday. In fact, when rebuked for the delay in setting up of the Cauvery Management Board, a raging issue between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the distribution of Cauvery waters, the centre told the Supreme Court that PM Modi and other ministers are “busy with Karnataka polls and can’t take any decision on Cauvery dispute”.
The 135-km Eastern expressway along with the Western Peripheral corridor were planned in 2006 following the top court’s order to build a ring road outside the national capital to divert non-Delhi bound traffic. After much delay, the construction on the Rs. 5,763-crore Eastern Peripheral Expressway began in 2015 and the government set a deadline of 400 days to complete the project.
The signal-free project falls in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and will enable vehicles coming through Jaipur to bypass Delhi to head towards Uttarakhand, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Similarly, vehicles coming from other directions can also use the corridor to bypass Delhi.