SHAHAPUR: "We are not being given complete information on the project, they haven't replied to objections raised by us for over three months and now they are trying to negotiate land acquisition unilaterally. This is bad. The government that we elected is cheating us," said Narayan Bhoir of Ushid near here.
Ushid, located hardly 60-70km from Mumbai, is one of the 10 villages of Kalyan taluka in Thane district where land measurement was carried out for acquisition for the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur communication super highway project or the Maharashtra Samruddhi Corridor (Prosperity Corridor) as the project is popularly referred to. "According to law, land measurement needs to be a joint exercise involving land measurement officials, revenue officials and land owners. But here they came with the police force and did not even allow owners to enter their fields," said Chandrakant Bhoir of neighbouring Phalegaon. "When we tried to oppose the unilateral exercise, false cases were slapped against us," he added saying that he resigned from the post of taluka secretary of the BJP following the episode.
The corridor is a proposed eight-lane 120 metre wide 710- km long expressway that passes through 354 villages of 30 talukas in 10 districts of Maharashtra. The project is expected to change the face of the State's economy by providing rapid access for farm produce to ports, airports and agro-processing hubs. Twenty-five such hubs along with small townships are being planned at a distance of 30-40 km each along the super highway. The project is estimated to come up at a cost of `46,000 crore and requires acquisition of around 20,820 hectares of land.
Of the total land, 8,520 hectares is proposed to be used for roads and access ways, while 10,800 hectares of land is for townships. However, the villagers are not ready to part with their land. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had recently declared that construction of the road will begin in October this year and would be completed within the next three years.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the agency that is expected to carry out the work, has said it has already completed the measurement of land that is to be acquired and is in the process of negotiating the compensation to farmers. "This is all bluff. Firstly, they had not made it clear in the notices sent to us under which act they want to acquire our lands. They did not even bother to reply to objections raised by us. They surveyed our land with the help of drones and just hushed up the physical process of measurement," said former zilla parishad member Haribhau Khade of Birwadi village in Shahapur taluka near Bhatsa reservoir. "Almost all the villages in Shahapur, Bhiwandi and Kalyan taluka whose land is required for the project have conducted gramsabhas (village meetings) and unanimously resolved that they won't part with their land. But the government officials have undermined the resolutions," he added.
"This is not the first time that our land is being taken for a project of public interest. We have seen land acquisition for dams, railways, highways, oil pipelines etc. But never did government agencies require police force to conduct land measurement," said Dattatreya Bhere, a colleague of Khade. "The fact that they used the police force shows that this is a dictatorship and not democracy," he added with pain in his voice. "Government agencies not just hushed up the measurement process but, are not even ready to share information on the measured land," said Vinod Kashivle, sarpanch of Chinchwali village in Bhiwandi taluka. "After the secretive unilateral land measurement we sought information under the RTI.
But, none of our questions were properly answered," Kashivle said. "Cases filed against us for opposing land measurement don't have the official's names as complainants but are filed by police officers themselves," he said, adding that it appeared fishy.
Kapil Dhamne of Chiradpada village of Bhiwandi taluka has been pursuing zero budget natural farming after he left his engineering job in a Dubai firm and returned to his village a few years back. "We are small land owners. We are dependent entirely on farming. Officials told me that they require greenfield alignment, when I suggested that most of the fertile land would be saved if they move the proposed highway closer to the existing one," Dhamne said adding that the government is not open for any suggestions regarding the project. "This attitude of the officials is particularly painful against the backdrop of repeated assurances by the Chief Minister that the government will hear all stakeholders," he added.