The state Assembly on Monday approved an amendment to the Shri Saibaba Sanstha Trust Bill, paving the way for an international greenfield airport at the temple town of Shirdi. This is the first time a religious trust will assist in funding the development of an airport in Maharashtra.
The Legislative Council had cleared the amendment last week. The amendment came under attack from the Opposition, who accused the government of eyeing money from religious trusts to help build infrastructure since its own coffers were empty.
Leader of Opposition, Eknath Khadse also said this was an attack on Hindu religious trusts as a similar move to control religious trusts of minorities would never be made by the government. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the move was aimed at providing faster transport facilities for Saibaba devotees, who came from across the country and even abroad.
He said the government was planning to build airports across the state, including in backward areas. He added the trust had offered to help, if the state could provide the land. The airport is now coming up on 300 hectares of land, 11km from Shirdi. The trust has provided a grant of Rs50 crore to the nodal agency, Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation. This is seed money that usually has to be provided by the state.
Chavan said the airport will be developed on a Built-Operate-Transfer basis or with the help of the Centre.
“The amendment specifically states that the trust fund money can be utilised for various transport-related facilities, including a bus terminal, better roads or railway related infrastructure, besides the airport. ” said Chavan.