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Zila Parishad schools to shut near Navi Mumbai International Airport site

Disappointed with the slow pace of project-affected families giving up their land for the construction of Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA), the state government is set to shut down 10 Zila parishad-run schools in the area by May, senior officials said. The move is expected to prompt villagers to shift to the Pushpak node, where two new schools have been built for the children of the project-affected persons (PAP).

As of now, only 40 per cent of the 3,000 project-affected families in 10 villages have shifted to Pushpak and Ulwe nodes, which includes developed plots, two schools and additional amenities. The nodes are relatively far from four to five villages that have been affected by the project. Each of the 10 village includes one zila parishad school. “The year 2017 will be the last academic year for students studying in these 10 schools. A letter to this effect was written in March by the secretary of rural development to the chief executive officer of the Raigad Zilla Parishad. These schools accommodate around 1,000 children,” an official said.

Confirming the development, Mohan Ninawe, City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO) spokesperson said: “The schools would be shut so that children can move to the new schools.” “The committee of zila parishad has taken a collective decision to shut these schools. We are creating awareness regarding this among villagers so that they can start shifting,” said Raigad Zila Parishad CEO Abhay Yavalkar.

The CIDCO has offered twice or three times the land parcels acquired and compensation to build houses in the Pushpak node. Officials expect villagers will be keen on building their houses in the offered space so that their children could attend schools. By May, CIDCO plans to inaugurate new schools in Vadghar and Wahal villages of Pushpak node. “These schools can accommodate equal number of students who attend the parishad schools. They have the required facilities. We will also develop nine additional plots to develop education hubs,” an official added.

The CIDCO, which is developing the land for the airport, had offered an incentive scheme to accelerate acquisition. Under this, it was going to offer Rs 500 per sq ft, Rs 300 per sq ft and Rs 100 per sq ft if villagers decide to vacate their plots by end of March, April and May, respectively. This comes in addition to the existing land compensation package that villagers had received. While the scheme received good response in March, when 500 families vacated their plots, hardly 65 families vacated their houses by April 28 — the last day to do so this month.

“Not many families have submitted their land to us in April. Many were demanding the compensation given to those who had submitted their land by March end. In all, out of 3,000, 1,025 families have given away their land,” a senior CIDCO official said.
The CIDCO requires 1,160 hectares to construct the core airport area. Out of this, the 10 affected villages comprise three hectares. While CIDCO has acquired the remaining land, getting land inhabited by villagers is important to start flight operations with a single runway and terminal building by December 2019.

“Villages Vaghivali and Varchaole fall inside the core airport area. While we can continue land acquisition from other villages, complete land acquisition of these two villages is important, as some part of the single runway falls within Varchaole. We have finished with 95 per cent of land acquisition in Vaghivali but some villagers in Varchaole refuse to budge,” said an official. Villagers in Varchaole have been protesting against reduced financial compensation and intense methods taken by CIDCO to vacate land. There are about 350 project affected families living in Varchaole.

“If the remaining villagers in Varchaole do not vacate by May, we plan to move court. This would mean that CIDCO has offered the required compensation to villagers and we can take their land by force. If families continue to fight over land ownership between themselves, the court would intervene,” the official added.

Sandesh Gharat, a PAP from Varchaole said: “The new schools are far from the redeveloped plots they are shifting us to. Our children would have to cross national highway and railway line if they have to go these schools. Also, we are not satisfied with the redeveloped plots, as it has no water line, temples and other amenities. We have asked the CIDCO to develop new schools where we are required to shift.”

According to the agreement for the project, CIDCO has to submit the land to private concessionaire G V K group of Industries by July. While CIDCO does possess 90 per cent of land for submission, land acquisition in parts of Varchaole village remains an issue. “Our deadline is to finish land acquisition by May, as villagers may refuse to move out during the monsoons. Some villages also have gram panchayat elections this month which may further make their evacuation difficult. While we were hopeful of seeing 2,000 families evacuating by May end, the picture looks grim now,” the official said.

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