Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ dream project, Mumbai Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor, or Maharashtra Prosperity Corridor, (express highway), is facing stiff opposition from political parties, including BJP’s ally Shiv Sena, and other groups.
The Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway is a grand eight-lane 710-km project, expected to change the face of Maharashtra’s economy. Passing through Nagpur, Buldhana, Amravati, Wardha, Washim, Thane, Aurangabad, Akola, Bhiwandi and Nashik districts, the expressway will also cut the travel time between Mumbai and Nagpur by half. At present it takes around 16 hours to reach from Mumbai to Nagpur by road.
The Indian Express had reported in March this year that the work on the eight-lane project comprising 25 townships would begin in October and be completed in three years. The project requires the acquisition of around 20,820 hectares of land across 10 districts, according to IE. Of the total land, 8,520 hectares would be used for roads and access way, while 10,800 hectares would be for building townships.
However, the aquistion of such a large area of land, including farmlands, has invited attacks from several groups.
At a time when Opposition parties have been trying to agitate farmers for an agricultural loan waiver on the lines of the one granted by Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, the Mumbai-Nagpur project has provided another opportunity to these parties to take on the state government.
On Tuesday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar alleged that Fadnavis government was proceeding with land acquisition in a hurried manner. “We had been in power for several years and we are not against development. I too have tackled similar issues of compensation (for land acquisition) when Navi Mumbai was being developed,” Pawar told reporters, adding, “I also headed a group of ministers which drafted land acquisition bill during UPA. With all this experience and from what the people affected by this project are saying, it seems the government is hastily pushing the project.”
On May 22, Shiv Sena claimed that the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor will lead to a rise in farmer suicides in the state if the government forcibly took away their land for the project. “The government machinery is being misused to build this expressway which has caused a severe law and order issue. Protesting farmers are being beaten up and threatened with imprisonment if they hinder government work. The only thing left now is to cut off the heads of the protesters,” the Sena said in an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.
Attacking Maharashtra CM, it said that Fadnavis wears a smiling mask on his face all the time, but his real face comes out when he sneers at farmers’ woes. “Thousands of farmers have revolted against this project. They do not want to sell their mother (irrigated land) but if you are forcing them to do so, your intentions are wrong. Those who could not take revenge of our soldiers’ mutilation should not hurt farmers too,” it said, while referring to the mutilation of Indian soldiers’ bodies along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.
Farmers in areas like Sinnar and Igatpuri tehsils of Nashik district, besides those in Shahpur and Kalyan tehsils of Thane district, have been protesting against expressway passing through their farmlands.
Another NDA ally in Maharashtra, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna is also opposed to the project. SSS MP Raju Shetti on Monday said his party would not allow the project. “We shall not allow Samruddhi corridor. If need be we will spill our blood. The highway is for the interest of big (senior) officers,” PTI quoted Shetti as saying.