How Dwarka e-way landed in Nitin Gadkari’s lap

Haryana chief minister had a “small” request for Union cabinet minister at the Happening Haryana investors’ summit in March 2016. And who better to narrate this story than himself.
“Manohar Lal ji told me in my ear, ‘Ek chhota sa kaam hamara kardo’. And I’m very liberal, so if there’s a problem, I’ll always say yes, and will try to address it,” Gadkari told a packed town hall with TOI in Gurgaon on Monday.

“I asked what it was and he said work on the Dwarka Expressway is hanging fire, since the Delhi government is not giving us land, so please get it done – ‘It’s just a little bit of work’. I said, ‘Fine, I’ll get it done’.”

The audience burst into laughter. On Monday, a select group of people had gathered to hear the minister address issues raised in TOI’s ‘Give Gurgaon Its Due’ campaign, and the incomplete Dwarka expressway was a sore point with many.

As it turned out, the “little bit of work” Khattar had raised involved linking two portions of the 17km expressway, delayed because land had not been acquired in Delhi. “I found it was far from being a ‘small task’ – because the land acquisition was costly, this ‘job’ came with a price tag of Rs 7,000 crore!” Gadkari said, winning the audience over with his ready humour.

Gadkari continued in similar vein, declaring himself stumped by the petition of the local power authority. “I’m spending Rs 7,000 crore on building the expressway, and the electricity board asks for Rs 200 crore to shift the line (getting in the way of the expressway). I tell Khattar I’m making this road on your request and they are demanding money from me!”

() finally took over the Dwarka expressway in August 2016. Gadkari assured the gathering that the final hurdle stopping the expressway has now been cleared.

Gadkari, who holds key portfolios, including road, transport and highways, was only too happy to take digs. Among his targets were contractors running away from responsibility and shirking

work, and green activists overeager to throw a spanner into developmental works (a “microscopic minority”, he called them). Even the city’s ex-mayor came in for some gentle ribbing. “Don’t be angry!” the minister assured him. “(He) was going to contribute half the money for the cost of an underpass, but ultimately never did!”

Then there was the it-onlyhappens-in-Gurgaon imbroglio over an immovable petrol pump that left the minister flummoxed. A wall of this fuel station looms, like a dead end after a turn, to deny right of way to the Iffco Chowk underpass, derailing the best-laid plans of road engineers. “Till the time this issue is not sorted out, I will refuse to entertain you in my office, and I won’t do your work,” he chided the minister in charge.

The minister urged Gurugrammers to wean themselves away from the expensive motors they’re over-fond of. “I have to say, since I am the transport minister, that it’s not good that people are buying more cars. If there were as many people as cars being made, where, then, will the roads be built?”

Still, that all depends on the city’s public transport improving enough for most to abandon their sedans and hatchbacks and SUVs. But, of course, nothing comes for free. “If you want good services, you must pay for it,” added Gadkari.

Meanwhile, developers, often painted as the villains of many a real-estate piece, were gently scolded. Should he announce the construction of a highway, these folks, Gadkari said, would hike the rates from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 – and then to Rs 25,000 (all figures per square feet) once work on the highway is finished. “The Haryana government would sell the land, but it is the others who would make money out of the land – and I would have to take out a loan to build the road!”

So, how about a tax on the developers? It’s a thought that carried much appeal for the BJP stalwart.

Gurgaon may lack connectivity, especially in the new sectors, but Gadkari seemed to face little trouble in connecting with Gurugrammers. And for one morning, he had the ear of the city’s most prominent individuals.

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