In the latest in a series of U-turns, the Shiv Sena softened its opposition to the state government’s showpiece Samruddhi Expressway, which will connect Mumbai to Maharashtra’s second capital of Nagpur.
The road, which is seen as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ dream project, is being pitched as a regional development project. The Shiv Sena had earlier opposed the around 700-km highway on grounds that it would destroy farmers whose land would be acquired for it.
However, in a softening of stance, the party, whose leader Eknath Shinde is the public works (public undertakings) minister and controls the Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation (MSRDC), which is executing the project, said land would be acquired only with the consent of the project-affected.
While the Sena had opposed the project, Shinde had been present at the first-such registration of sale deeds for the land at Hingna in Nagpur, which led to speculation.
“In areas like Jalna and Aurangabad, fertile land is being acquired for it,” said Uddhav, while speaking to the media on Saturday, adding that the farmers were opposed to acquisition of such land and proper compensation not being given.
He suggested that the alignment of the highway should be changed to merge it with the existing highway, which could be widened. This would bring down the opposition to the project as had happened in case of the Mumbai- Pune expressway.
Uddhav denied that Shinde was working at cross-purposes with the Shiv Sena’s stance. “It is our promise to farmers. Development will happen without destroying anyone,” he urged.
Shinde denied that the Shiv Sena had changed its stance and said no acquisition would take place without the consent of landowners. “At the time of registration, I asked the farmers if they had been brought there by force and if the sale deeds were being registered with their consent,” he added, stating that over 80 hectare area had been acquired at Nagpur.
The purchase price will be transferred to beneficiaries via RTGS to prevent them from being swindled of their money.
“Those who do not have land are playing politics using farmers,” charged Shinde, adding that the Sena would stand by farmers.
Uddhav urged the media to bring it to their notice if forcible land acquisition was being carried out. “The Shiv Sena will support those who are losing their land… fulfilling one’s dreams does not means destroying those of others,” he said.
The around Rs 46,000 crore project will have a Greenfield alignment from Bhiwandi near Mumbai to Nagpur, will pass through five revenue revenue divisions, 27 talukas and 350 villages. The MSRDC will develop agro development nodes and undertake commercial development there. Land for the project is being acquired through a land pooling model.
Once complete, the road will provide seamless connectivity across Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Washim, Buldhana, Aurangabad, Jalna, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Thane.