My colleagues in the Union Cabinet, Shri Piyush Goyal ji, Hardeep Singh Puri ji, Shri Som Parkash ji and Anupriya Patel ji, other public representatives, guests, ladies and gentlemen!
I congratulate the people of Delhi, Noida-Ghaziabad, NCR and all those visiting Delhi from all over the country. Today Delhi has received a very beautiful gift of modern infrastructure from the Central Government.
So many things came to my mind as I was passing through the tunnel. It was not an easy task to prepare this Integrated Transit Corridor in such a short span of time. The roads around which this corridor is built are one of the busiest roads in Delhi. Millions of vehicles pass every day. And there are seven railway lines passing over the tunnel. In the midst of all these difficulties, Corona came and it created new problems. And we are not short of people knocking on the doors of the judiciary whenever you start something new in the country. There are people who create hindrances in everything.
Many problems arise while taking the country forward. This project too had to go through similar problems. But this is new India. It solves problems too, takes new resolutions and makes unrelenting efforts to realize those resolutions. I also congratulate our engineers and workers very much for completing this project with diligence and coordinated efforts and presenting the best example of project management. I congratulate all my labor brothers and sisters who have shed their sweat from the bottom of my heart.
This Integrated Transit Corridor is part of the drive to transform the Pragati Maidan Exhibition Centre as per the requirements of the 21st century. Pragati Maidan was built decades ago to showcase India's progress, the potential of Indians, India's products and our culture. But after that India has changed a lot, India's capability has changed, our needs have also increased manifold, but it is unfortunate that Pragati Maidan did not make much progress. A decade and a half ago, a plan was made to expand the facilities here, but only on paper. It is a fashion statement to announce something, show it on paper, light a lamp, cut the lace, ensure headlines in newspapers and then forget about it. And it continued like this.
The Government of India is working continuously to develop state-of-the-art facilities and exhibition halls for world class events in the national capital and many parts of the country. In Delhi too, the International Convention & Expo Center being built in Dwarka and the redevelopment project at Pragati Maidan are going to become an example in itself.
Last year I had the opportunity to inaugurate four exhibition halls here and today this modern connectivity facility has been inaugurated. These modern constructions by the Central Government are changing the image of the national capital, making it more modern. And this is not just to change the image, but it can also be a medium to change fate.
The objective behind the Central Government’s emphasis on modern infrastructure and modernization in Delhi is Ease of Living. The common man should have less inconvenience and more facilities should be available to him with ease. We are moving forward keeping in mind environment-conscious planning in development works, and are sensitive to the environment and the climate.
Last year, I also had the opportunity to inaugurate the Defence Complex. It is the misfortune of our country that many good things done for a good purpose fall prey to politics and the media also gets drawn due to TRP compulsions. I am giving you this example so that you will understand what happened. Those who are familiar with Delhi know very well that all the important works related to defence were being carried out from hutments at the Rashtrapati Bhavan complex. So many years had passed after the Second World War. These hutments spread over a vast stretch of land had become dilapidated. So many governments were formed. You know what happened. I don’t want to say anything further.
Our government made eco-friendly buildings on KG Marg and Africa Avenue. We ensured a good environment for the armed forces who were working in slum-like conditions for 80 years. Keeping in mind the environment and infrastructure needed for the armed forces, we shifted them from decades-old offices to the new eco-friendly offices equipped with modern technology.
If there is a good working environment, the outcome is also very good. By shifting these old offices, many acres of land with huge value have become free and various projects are underway there for the convenience of the people. I am happy that Central Vista and the new Parliament Building are also progressing at a fast pace. The capital of India will be discussed in the coming days and every Indian will be proud of it. This is my firm belief.
This Integrated Transit Corridor, which has been built by our government, has the same vision of modern infrastructure and environment. This entire area around Pragati Maidan is one of the busiest areas of Delhi. People here had to deal with serious traffic problems over the years. We all know very well the difficulties at the ITO intersection.
I think 50 times whenever my programs are scheduled. I tell the SPG staff to take me out either early in the morning or late at night so that people are not inconvenienced. I always tell them not to take me through the roads during the day as people feel harassed. I always try to avoid it, but sometimes there are compulsions.
This tunnel, which is more than one-and-a-half kilometer long, will provide major relief to thousands of commuters from East Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad. This Integrated Transit Corridor will save time as well as fuel. According to the presentation, 55 lakh liters of petrol is going to be saved. In other words, it will save citizens’ money.
If I announce to give 100 rupees to someone, it becomes a headline in my country. But if I make such an arrangement due to which a person saves 200 rupees, it is no news. It doesn't have any importance because it doesn't have political mileage. But we are working towards the convenience of the common man and reducing his burden by developing sustainable arrangements.
With less traffic jams, the environment of Delhi will be saved. We often say that Time is Money. Now with the construction of this tunnel, time will be saved no doubt, but one should also think how much money will be saved. Time is money is fine as an adage, but if time is saved due to this facility developed by the Government of India, no one is ready to explain that money will also be saved. We need to come out of our old thinking and habits.
As our Piyushbhai was saying, it is estimated that pollution reduction due to this corridor will be equivalent to what five lakh trees do. This does not mean that we do not need to plant trees. And I am happy that the campaign to plant trees on the banks of Yamuna along with this project has been completed i.e., double benefits have been ensured. We are also working towards bringing down pollution by planting trees.
Recently, India has achieved the target of blending 10% ethanol in petrol. This is a great achievement. The 10 percent of India's requirement of ethanol made from sugarcane waste is driving our vehicles and giving impetus to our speed. And we achieved this target many months ago. This campaign of blending ethanol in petrol reduces pollution and also helps in increasing the income of our farmer because his waste is being used in the best way.
We have taken unprecedented steps in the last eight years to solve the problems of Delhi-NCR. In the last eight years, the metro service in Delhi-NCR has expanded from 193 kms to 400 kms, more than double. If some citizens take a vow to use 10% of their commute by Metro instead of their private vehicle, it will be very helpful for Delhi. Though there would be a little more crowd in the Metro, this small gesture can instill a sense of duty and it will give him immense joy as a citizen.
And sometimes traveling among the common people also has an altogether different pleasure. Even in those five-ten minutes, one gets an opportunity to know the life of his fellow travelers. That is, there are multiple benefits. And the Metro will also become economically viable even if there is a slight increase in the number of passengers. If we do all these things together then it will result in huge benefits. Due to the growing metro network in Delhi-NCR, thousands of vehicles are off the roads helping a lot in reducing pollution.
Delhi has also got a huge relief due to the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways as thousands of non-Delhi bound trucks and other vehicles bypass the city. Delhi's interstate connectivity has become a hallmark of unprecedented scale and speed. The Delhi-Meerut Expressway has reduced the distance between Delhi and Meerut to just one hour. Earlier people used to spend eight-nine hours going to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun from Delhi. Now, it takes hardly four or four-and-a-half hours.
Now I will tell you the importance of time. Recently, I went to Kashi Railway Station. Since I am an MP from that constituency, I usually go there late in the night so that people do not face any problems. I went to see the facilities for citizens at the Kashi Railway Station. I asked about traffic and trains from the railway officials. I was told that there is a huge demand for Vande Mataram trains. But I told them that it is a bit costly. They told me that it is the poor and workers who mostly prefer Vande Mataram trains despite the train tickets being a little costly. When enquired, the passengers told the railway officials that they get a huge space for luggage. The poor people generally carry all their household goods while travelling. Secondly, they said that they reach 3-4 hours early to the destination and they get employment immediately and they start earning early.
You see how much change has happened in the thinking of the common man. If we remain old-fashioned, we would continue to harp on introducing costly trains like Vande Mataram. The people who are disconnected with the thinking of the people do not understand the new change. It was a matter of happiness for me how the common man of India is embracing the change.
The projects such as Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, Delhi-Dehradun Expressway, Delhi-Amritsar Expressway, Delhi-Chandigarh Expressway and Delhi-Jaipur Expressway have the potential to make the capital of India one of the best connected capitals of the world.
The country's first and indigenous rapid rail system is also being built rapidly between Delhi and Meerut. Work is underway on similar rapid rail systems to connect Haryana and Rajasthan with Delhi. When these projects are ready, they will further strengthen the identity of Delhi as the capital of the country.
These will benefit the professionals, youths, students, school going children, office goers, taxi drivers, auto drivers, businessmen, small shopkeepers and every section of the society in Delhi-NCR.
Today, the country is following the vision of the PM GatiShakti National Master Plan, due to which the decision making process of modern multimodal connectivity is increasing very fast. I recently had a meeting with the Chief Secretaries of all the states in Dharamsala. It was such a pleasant surprise for me when the Chief Secretaries of the states underscored the usefulness of the GatiShakti and told me that it now takes six days instead of six months for the proper planning of any project due to better coordination. The GatiShakti Master Plan has become a great medium of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas’.
The GatiShakti has been envisaged so that no project is delayed, all the departments should work in harmony and every department should have complete knowledge of each other. This spirit of ‘Sabka Prayas’ (everyone's effort) is also very important for urban development.
In the ‘Amrit Kaal’ of independence, it has become necessary to expand the scope of metro cities and work with better planning in Tier-2, Tier-3 cities. For the rapid development of India in the next 25 years, we have to make the cities green, clean and friendly. This should be our priority that the place of work and residence should be as close as possible to the mass transit networks. For the first time, any government is giving importance to urban planning on such a large scale. And let us assume that no one will be able to stop urbanization. Instead of considering urbanization as a problem, if we plan to consider urbanization as an opportunity, then it has the potential to increase the strength of the country manifold. And our focus is that we consider urbanization as an opportunity and start planning in urban areas.
Work is being done at a fast pace to provide better facilities to everyone from the urban poor to the urban middle-class. In the last eight years, pucca houses have been provided to more than 1.70 crore urban poor. Lakhs of middle class families have also been given financial help for the construction of their houses. If there is focus on modern public transport in cities, then the infrastructure related to CNG and electric mobility is also being focused equally. The FAME scheme of the Central Government is a good example of this. Under this scheme, a fleet of new electric buses is being readied in dozens of cities, including Delhi. A few days ago, some new buses started running under this scheme in Delhi as well. These buses are going to provide facilities to both the poor and middle-class and will also reduce the problem of pollution.
May this resolve to make life easier for the countrymen continue to grow stronger! An open jeep was arranged for me to see the tunnel. I drove in the jeep for a while due to rules, regulations and discipline, but got down later and started walking. As a result, I got late here by 10-15 minutes. I started walking because I wanted to see the artworks on both sides of the tunnel. Piyushji has mentioned that the art works reflect six seasons. During our discussions, I found value addition in it, something novel.
I can say that the tunnel is the best education centre of ‘Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat’. I can’t say about the world, but I can say probably nowhere inside the tunnel will there be such a long art gallery.
From a cursory glance, if you want to understand India, its diversity, its euphoria, moments of enthusiasm, then whosoever visits the tunnel and if he is a foreigner he will also feel Nagaland, Kerala, Jammu-Kashmir in the tunnel. It is an art work full of so many diversities and that too hand-made.
I would like to suggest something different after watching the tunnel. I don't know how experts would react to my suggestion. Since there is less traffic on Sundays, can the entry of all the vehicles be banned for about 4-6 hours? It would be a great service if school students are shown this art gallery.
I would like the Ministry of External Affairs to bring all the ambassadors working in embassies and missions here and organize a walk of this tunnel. They would get to know about Mahatma Gandhi, something related to Lord Krishna and the dances of Assam.
Along with this, a guide can also be arranged through phone. Sometimes, if you charge as little as 10 paise and issue tickets, then unwanted people will stop coming and it will be used properly. There will be proper counting of visitors.
I tell you the truth friends. I could not otherwise get this opportunity of taking a walk in the tunnel, because if it is thrown open to the public, nobody would allow me to step out of the jeep. For those who are interested in art, it is a great opportunity.
Something special needs to be done. When I was in Gujarat, I did an experiment for a few days, but it didn't work. There was a road in Ahmedabad which was heavily congested. Though I have forgotten, I had decided on a specific day when vehicles would not be allowed on that road. That road would be for children on that day where they could play cricket there. It drew visitors for some time.
I believe that a campaign should be launched to dedicate this road for a stroll for four to six hours on a day when there is not much traffic. It might be Sunday. VIPs should also be invited. When the Parliament session starts, I would urge all the MPs to take a walk of the tunnel with their families. A special one-day program can also be organized for the art critics. I firmly believe that they will write something good about this tunnel and it will send a good message.
We should not consider connectivity in and around Delhi simply as a convenience for commuting. It provides facilities to the people of Delhi-Noida-Ghaziabad, but it also has a huge advantage that it reduces burden on the urban areas. If someone gets a better facility of commuting, then he may consider moving to Ghaziabad or Meerut to escape the expensive life in Delhi because he can reach Delhi early saving about half an hour. The Indian Government, which is spending so much money on connectivity, is also working to lessen the burden of Delhi.
Those who have come here should spare some time to visit the tunnel as traffic is yet to resume and should also inspire others. I would also urge the government officials of different departments to consider this.
Thank you very much and best wishes.