Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today led his ministers at an unprecedented cabinet meet, which took key decisions on a series of infrastructure projects, defence corridor and development of religious sites, before taking a holy dip at the Sangam.
The meeting held at the site of ongoing Kumbh Mela in Allahabad was attended by 25 cabinet ministers, including the chief minister, and several junior ministers.
At the meeting, the BJP-led government approved the construction of a 600-km Ganga Expressway to better connect Allahabad - now renamed Prayagraj - to western Uttar Pradesh. The state government said the expressway, which will cost Rs 36,000 crore, will be the longest in the world.
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya said apart from “all cabinet ministers” and some junior ministers, 'sadhus" also took the holy dip on the “historic day”.
Om Prakash Rajbhar, who represent a BJP ally Bharatiya Suheldev Samaj Party (SBSP) in the cabinet, kept away from the Allahabad meeting, complaining that the issues related to the backward communities are being ignored.
The chief minister and members of his cabinet also offered prayers at a Hanuman temple here.
The ministers had travelled from the state capital Lucknow, where the cabinet usually meets at regular intervals. The meeting was held at the "integrated control and command centre" set up at the sprawling Kumbh Mela venue itself.
Lakhs of devotees have been visiting the Kumbh Mela, which this time happens to fall just a few months before the Lok Sabha elections.
Apart from nod for the Ganga Expressway project, the cabinet also gave the necessary approvals for the Bundelkhand Expressway and the Purvanchal Expressway which have already been announced.
The government decided to waive the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on “Uri: The Surgical Strike", a recently released film based on Indian commando raids in 2016 inside Pakistan-controlled territory.
Adityanath said the film is about the valour of the country’s soldiers and instills a feeling of patriotism.
The proposed Ganga Expressway will start from Meerut and pass through Amroha, Bulandshahr, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Farrukhabad, Hardoi, Kannauj, Unnao, Rae Bareli and Pratapgarh before reaching Allahabad, the chief minister told reporters.
This expressway will require 6,556 hectares of land.
Around Allahabad, the cabinet also approved the beautification of the Rishi Bhardwaj ashram and the development of the Shringverpur pilgrim spot and the Nishadraj Park.
The cabinet gave its nod for installing the statue of Maharishi Balmiki at an ashram between Allahabad and Chitrakoot.
A Ramayana research institute will also be set up, the chief minister said.
The state government gave an in-principle approval for the Bundelkhand Expressway and the development of the Bundelkhand region.
This Bundelkhand Expressway will be 296 km long and cost Rs 8,864 crore.
The government has already begun the acquisition of 3,641 hectare of land required for this project.
The chief minister recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already announced a Defence Corridor for the region. This is meant to promote Defence-related industry.
The cabinet gave its approval for the 91-km Gorakhpur link of the Purvanchal Expressway that will pass through Azamgarh and Ambedkarnagar.
The government also approved providing houses under the Mukhya Mantri Awas Yojna to 3,791 homeless people suffering from leprosy.
The doctors and other staff members at the SGPGI in Lucknow will now get facilities on a par with the AIIMS in Delhi, the chief minister added.
(With inputs from agencies)