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On World Cycle Day, Akhilesh's prestigious cycle track begs for attention

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By Brij Khandelwal
Agra, June 4 (Ajit Weekly News) Even as the world celebrated the international cycle day on Friday, a prestigious project of the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the 207-km long cycle track from Etawah lion safari to Agra built at a cost of Rs 140 crore, lied in a state of shambles.

Parts of it are now being used by the villagers to dry cow dung cakes or wash clothes. People in Agra and Etawah have forgotten the concrete layered track along the picturesque wilderness of river Yamuna and Chambal ravines.

Akhilesh was keen to promote cycling in a big way. He was seen cycling at political rallies. Cycle continues to remain Samajwadi Party’s election symbol.

Before the track could even be popularised, parts of it had to be bulldozed to widen the VIP road in Agra, to connect the local airport with the Taj Mahal.

Officials justified the bulldozing because this section of the road was frequently used by visiting foreign dignitaries.

The state public works department had assured locals that the cycle track would be rebuilt after the road widening project was completed. But it never happened, because the Yogi Adityanath dispensation was not interested in cycles.

“In any case how many people use the cycles these days?” pointed green activist Jugal Kishore.

From the very beginning, the cycle project appeared a total waste of money. As it meandered through desolate and dreaded ravines, security concerns were always there, environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya explained.

“Undoubtedly the project was timely and laudable but the problem is not only of security but of logistics too. Students are not interested in taking this adventurous ride for whatever reasons. Unless the state government periodically organised cycle yatras and competitions this project was destined to fall,” Bhattacharya added.

The abandoned cycle track touches the temple town of Bateshwar along a bend of the river Yamuna. The 101 Shiva temples in a row are a major tourist attraction. The town is gaining popularity now as the birth place of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

When the cycle track was being laid, forest department officials had hoped that it would attract foreigners.

“They will like the adventure and would definitely enjoy the clean air, the unspoilt nature with rustic flavour. Several spots along the Chambal offer great opportunities for bird watching.”

Looking back, the ambitious cycle track was ill conceived, as students are now keen to ride fancy mobikes.

Tourists are hard pressed for time.

“They just want to see the Taj Mahal and return. Most tourists have been told Agra was not safe and water was dangerous. With so much deliberate negativity spread by interest groups, how can a cycle project become popular,” wondered tourist guide Ved Gautam.

–Ajit Weekly News

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