Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Noida International Airport today, in his first public appearance in western UP since he said the three farm laws – which triggered furious protests nationwide, particularly in this part of the poll-bound state – will be scrapped.
“Farmers in the region will be able to export their vegetables, fruits and produce directly to the world,” the Prime Minister told a crowd of thousands from a platform surrounded, for the most part, by acres of villages, small towns and farms.
“There are many industrial areas like Aligarh, Mathura, Meerut, Agra, Bijnor, Moradabad and Bareilly… western Uttar Pradesh has a significant share in the agriculture sector as well. Now the power of these areas will also increase a lot,” he said.
Farmers across the country have protested for nearly 15 months against laws they say will leave them at the mercy of corporate firms, and rob them of a price guarantee scheme. Many are from western UP, and the opposition has questioned the timing of the centre’s decision.
Punjab and UP will both hold Assembly elections next year, with the BJP looking to retain power in the latter and defeat the Congress in the former. Victory in UP will be crucial for the BJP with a general election due in 2024; India’s most populous state sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
With an eye on those polls, and aware the party has taken some hits – including over four farmers run over by a convoy allegedly led by a Union Minister’s son, and the state’s handling of the Covid pandemic – the Prime Minister underlined benefits farmers could expect from the Noida airport.
“Thousands of employment opportunities are created during airport construction. The airport also requires thousands of people to run smoothly. This airport will also give new employment to thousands of people of western UP,” the Prime Minister said.
Earlier Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said he expected as much as Rs 35,000 crore in investments (once the Noida airport is fully built) and over one lakh in employment opportunities.
“Projects worth lakhs of crores are also going on in western Uttar Pradesh. Be it rapid rail corridors, expressways, metro connectivity, dedicated freight corridors connecting Uttar Pradesh with the eastern and western seas. These are becoming the new identity of the modern Uttar Pradesh,” the Prime Minister said, making a powerful pitch to voters ahead of next year’s election.