Mumbai-Nagpur expressway: MSRDC urges state govt to relax rules to take over farmers’ land
The move could involve forcible land acquisition once 60% is taken over, which may lead to resentment among unwilling farmersUpdated: Nov 21, 2017 14:42 IST
After facing strong resistance from farmers over land for the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur expressway, which is leading to delay in the project, nodal authority Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has proposed to relax the rules related to land acquisition.
The Public Works Department (PWD) mandates for 90% acquisition to begin the bidding process for a contractor. The planning agency has demanded the percentage be brought down to 60%. The PWD has, however, opposed the proposal saying it would set a wrong precedent and would lead to cost escalation that may be needed to be paid by the government. Once the contractor is selected in projects where land acquisition is the responsibility of the government, cost escalation is often borne by the latter.
The move could involve forcible land acquisition once 60% is taken over, which may lead to further resentment among unwilling farmers.
The MSRDC has not been able to acquire the land at the expected pace. This has forced it to extend the deadline to start the project to January 2018 from October this year. The agency is of the opinion that it would be able to push the acquisition to 60% by the new deadline and would be able to begin the process to select contractors to build the project if the PWD allowed relaxation. Bhushan Gagrani, vice-chairman and managing director, MSRDC, confirmed the move. The project, which includes a 701-km expressway and industrial clusters and townships alongside it, is chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ dream project.
At present, the MSRDC has acquired less than 25% of the required land. Among the five packages of the 701-km corridor, the package in Vidarbha has registered more than 50-60% land acquisition, while similar efforts are being put in by the PWD (undertakings) minister Eknath Shinde to push acquisition at the other end in Shahapur and Thane. The planning agency is facing strong opposition from farmers in Nashik, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad where the acquisition percentage is low. The agency may have to opt for forcible acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act. Giving the state an exemption from the rule will give it legal support to do the same even if farmers are refusing to part with its land. It can thus put work back on track.
“The MSRDC has proposed to relax the mandatory norm of not beginning the bidding process unless land acquisition has reached 80% and the work order is issued only on attaining 90% acquisition. The agency has requested to treat the mega project as an exception to the norms set as per provisions of the Highways Act. We have strongly opposed the proposal and it would set a wrong precedent,” an official from the PWD said.
The estimated cost of the project is Rs46,000 crore. For this, Rs30,000 crore is proposed to be raised from financial institutions, of which Rs10,000 crore is required for land acquisition. The government has already raised Rs5,000 crore to begin acquisition by using funds belonging to its other agencies, including Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) and Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA).
The PWD is of the opinion that allowing the project procedure to begin may lead to rise in costing as has happened in a few other projects, including the first phase of the Mumbai-Goa highway. It has also stated that since the state stands for the bank guarantee of such projects, the failure in acquisition of the remaining land puts additional burden of cost escalation on the state exchequer. The department has also reminded the MSRDC that the project was sanctioned by it on the condition of 90% land acquisition. The PWD has also said the permission to relax the land acquisition norm may lead to lending complications.
According to the officials from MSRDC, the relaxation may have helped it save 3 to 4 crucial months that are otherwise expected to be lost in acquisition. According to government sources, after the PWD’s denial to allow the permission for relaxation, the MSRDC is expected to miss its new deadline too.
First Published: Nov 21, 2017 14:42 IST