Nagpur/Mumbai: Maharashtra government has asked for the petitions filed against Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s pet project — the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway to be dismissed and costs to be imposed on farmers for filing petitions against it. The hi-tech expressway, also to be called the Samruddhi Expressway is a 701-kilometer-long international standard road planned by the government on which vehicles are expected to run at 150-kilometer per hour.
So far, 1890 farmers from 30 gram panchayats have filed petitions against the expressway through advocate Rameshwar Gite.
The main contention of the farmers is that their land is fertile on which various crops are grown throughout the year, so it should not be used for construction of the expressway. They have also pleaded that the existing Mumbai-Nagpur Highway be bettered to make it of international standard rather than build a new one. However, the government has said that the existing highway goes through various cities and it was only after careful surveys that they have decided on the current route of the expressway which would cut the travel time by about 3 to 4 hours.
The proposed highway passes through ten districts — Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Washim, Buldhana, Jalna, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Thane and covers 26 talukas and 392 villages and majority of the highway passes through non irrigated areas.
The total cost of the expressway is about Rs 46,000 crore including land acquisition and construction of the highway. In the affidavits filed by the government, the state has said that this is a public project in the interest of the farmers since the economic growth of the state will hike, value of the land will increase and the farmers will get value for their produce. There will be a speedy way to international market for the agricultural produce. For the project, the government of Maharashtra has also appointed the chief engineer and other officers for the new highway which will be starting from Shivmadka village in Hinga taluka of Nagpur district and ending at Bhiwandi bypass of national highway number 3 at Wadpe in Thane district.
For land acquisition, the government had earlier decided to go for land pooling scheme, but did not find any takers. After this, the government decided to go for direct purchase of private land through negotiations with the land owners whose land was falling within the alignment of the highway. The government has also given 25 per cent extra compensation above the total compensation determined under the right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition resettlement and rehabilitation act.
The affidavit also states that the act is in force. Thus, those farmers who do not hand over their land voluntarily, their land may be acquired as per the act. The affidavit states that the project of such magnitude cannot be defeated as it is undertaken to meet the aspirations of public at large. “It is not open to frustrate the project of such public importance to safeguard the interest of few persons. No development is possible without any adverse effects, but the projects of public utility cannot be abandoned. Any attempt either to defeat or even stall the project would permanently cause damage to the interest of the common citizens,” the affidavit stated and added that the issue does not call for any judicial review. The government is the best judge in deciding whether the acquisition is for public purpose or not. The decision of the government is based on detailed study and survey.
The government had planned to finish acquiring land for the project by December this year. The hearing in the case is now scheduled in November.