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Explained: How UP's new film city, Noida airport brought change amid COVID-19 pandemic


Noida, Jan 01: Development work on India's biggest airport and a new film city made sure Gautam Buddh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh stayed in the limelight in a year headlined by a pandemic and lockdown.


Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, in his multiple visits to the district in 2020, dubbed Noida and Greater Noida "show window" of the state. Infamous for crime, the district switched to the commissionerate system of policing in January, a move that appeared to have bore good results as number of street and heinous crimes went down in 2020 over the previous year.

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Police Commissioner Alok Singh, while presenting the crime data for the year on December 30, said the crime graph had gone down in the district and remarked that his force had been on an "aggressive" mode of policing to keep citizens safe.

The major switchover, however, preceded a controversial end to the erstwhile SSP-led police system when IPS officer Vaibhav Krishna was suspended from the post by the state government for "leaking" a "confidential" communication, days after he raised the issue of alleged corruption within the police system.

In the first week of March, Noida reported its first coronavirus case, bringing to test the efficiency of the medical and administration to the hilt in what was evolving to be a pandemic. The situation resulted in a spate of transfers, including District Magistrate Brajesh Narain Singh -- bringing to an abrupt end his nearly three-year-long illustrious stint here -- and two chief medical officers.

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The IAS officer was shunted out over his alleged mishandling of the pandemic situation and an inquiry initiated despite the number of cases being 38 at the end of March which stood close to 25,000 and 90 deaths on December 31.

Soon after his appointment, Suhas LY, the new district magistrate, went cracking on the situation in April and announced a ban on movement to and fro Delhi except for the frontline workers.

However the move, which caused inconvenience to commuters, paid off and the infection rate came down. By end of the year, Gautam Buddh Nagar had the among the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate of 0.36 per cent in the state and a recovery rate close to 98 per cent, according to official data.

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"As 2020 ends, numbers look better than before, vaccination process is around the corner. We hope to come out of this pandemic completely very soon," Suhas said in a letter on New Year's Eve. The Noida International Airport, which had got an in-principle approval of the Centre in 2018, only got its official name, logo and key agreement signed in 2020 that allows Swiss firm Zurich Airport International AG to start construction work in 2021.

"The project, so far, is coming up as per schedule and the first flight from the airport is expected to take off in 2023. It would be either December 2023 or January 2024," Noida International Airport Limited CEO Arun Vir Singh told PTI in December. Work on the detailed project report (DPR) for the film city, an ambitious project of Adityanath, is underway and likely to be ready by March, according to officials.

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    If the pandemic was not enough, the lockdown came as a double whammy -- hitting trade and businesses, ordinary citizens, salaried and migrant workers, and the poor.

    Thousands of workers and daily wage earners in Noida and Greater Noida were rendered jobless ever since the lockdown came into force in March to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission. Lakhs of people living hand-to-mouth in the slums and villages here were left to fend for themselves while thousands, who managed to leave for their hometowns, did.

    But humanity rose to the occasion when it was needed the most, as individuals and voluntary groups - like the 'Roti Bank' in Noida and 'Active Citizens Group' in Greater Noida took charge of the situation, augmenting the relief work done by government agencies.

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