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"Congratulations to the people of Uttar Pradesh for the ground-breaking of the Noida International Airport. It will put Noida and western UP on the global map… will be the "logistics gateway of northern India," he said at his first public event in western UP since scrapping the farm laws. Many protesting farmers come from this part of poll-bound UP.
"Today, 21st century India is seeing one mega infrastructure project after another. These do not just have a direct impact on the local population... but also transforms the entire region," the Prime Minister said, as he flagged work on the Noida airport and those in Kushinagar (inaugurated by him last month) and the proposed Ayodhya airport.
"Farmers in the region will be able to export their vegetables, fruits and produce directly to the world," PM Modi told a crowd of thousands from a platform surrounded, for the most part, by acres of villages, small towns and farms.
The Prime Minister also took swipes at the opposition ahead of the 2022 Assembly election and the 2024 Lok Sabha election, declaring: "So many projects in UP shelved by previous governments because. This too was suggested to be shelved... but then came the BJP's double-engine government and development picked up."
Ahead of the Prime Minister's visit and the foundation stone ceremony, the Noida airport ran into controversy over protests from farmers whose lands had been acquired. Camped in tents barely 700 metres away, they have said they were either not paid or not given alternative housing. A local BJP MLA admitted land had been acquired in a hurry.
Speaking before PM Modi, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath stirred up more controversy after accusing "followers of Jinnah" (seen as a reference to Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav) of fermenting trouble in the state's sugarcane belt.
Fully operational, the Noida International Airport is expected to serve around 1.2 crore passengers per year, with Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Agra, Faridabad, and nearby areas set to benefit. It will also decongest traffic in and around IGI airport, the centre has said.
Connectivity will be handled by a "multimodal transit hub" with metro and high-speed rail, as well as taxi and bus, services, the Prime Minister said, as he listed plans for major roads and expressways linking the airport.
The cargo terminal will have a capacity of 20 lakh metric tonnes and this can be expanded to 80 lakh metric tonnes. The airport, the centre said, would facilitate "seamless movement of industrial products" and help boost industrial growth in the region. Billed as India's first 'net zero emissions' airport, the centre also land will be set aside for a 'forest'.
Uttar Pradesh has eight operational airports at present, including international airports in Lucknow and Varanasi (Prime Minister Modi's constituency). A third was inaugurated at Kushinagar (a Buddhist pilgrimage site) last month and a fourth - in the temple town of Ayodhya - which the BJP has grand plans to convert into a tourist hub.
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