Travel time between Mumbai and Nagpur to go down to 6 hours by December 2020

A key official attached with Maharashtra’s fastest highway project, Samruddhi Corridor, says implementation of the new land acquisition act and transparency in compensation helped melt down farmers’ opposition.

In 2016, when Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced building a 701 km super highway between Nagpur and Mumbai that will cut travel time to six hours from the existing 14 hours, nobody believed that the work will ever kick off given the stiff opposition it faced with funds and land acquisition.

At present, almost 98 percent land acquisition has been completed and funds of Rs 28,000 crore are also in sight. Construction work for the road, popularly called as Samruddhi Corridor, is all set to begin.

Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) Radheshyam Mopalwar spoke to India Today TV and said that the first vehicle on this road will run by December 2020.

Here are the edited excerpts:

Q. Farmers opposed land acquisition for this project. How did you manage to get their lands?

A. Those who opposed land acquisition were politically motivated people not farmers. We opened a channel of dialogue with the farmers. We brought it to their notice that they will be getting an average compensation of Rs 1 crore per acre and the money will be deposited in their bank accounts without any commission agent. When they saw the transparency they were convinced. We held 1,500 meetings with the locals in all 392 villages before beginning the acquisition.

Q. How did you arrive at the compensation amount?

A. As per the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013, the government is bound to pay compensation four times higher than the ready rate. We paid five times the rate to those who came forward for direct sale. Those whose lands were acquired under the Maharashtra Highway Act were also paid four times higher rates. This is unprecedented.

Q. How many people were forced to sale their lands?

A. We need 8395 hectares of the land to construct the road. We directly purchased 5992 hectares. We applied the Maharashtra Highway Act to acquire 1129 hectares. It was not a forceful move but there are provisions under this Act that empowers the state to take land for public purposes. We are yet to get possession of 275 hectare land.

Q. How do you justify the land acquisition process?

A. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway was first conceived in 1991. The land acquisition was completed in 1998. In case of Samruddhi, the project was announced in 2016, the land acquisition began on July 2017 and the work order was issued in August 2018. No other project has made such rapid progress so far.

Q. There are complaints that people purchased land near the corridor expecting huge compensation. How are you addressing these?

A. If anyone purchased land before the acquisition process begun, we cannot do anything. We do not have a right to investigate the backdated land transactions. As far as compensation is concerned, we release the amount approved by the local district collector. We don’t have any role in fixing the compensation.

Q. How can you claim that there are no middlemen in receiving the compensation?

A. We have formed a committee comprising 12 officials at each of the 10 districts where the Samruddhi Corridor passes. It is highly impossible for a middleman to manage the committee members.

Q. Funding has been a critical issue. Have you found lenders?

A. Several nationalised banks, including the State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank, have come forward to fund the project. They have shown interest in providing the required Rs 28,000 crore for the construction. We have divided the 701 km road into 16 construction packages. In all, 13 companies will complete the work.

Q. How much will be the toll tax on Samruddhi Corridor?

A. It will be Re 1.83 per km, which is much lesser than Rs 2.40 per km on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The toll tax will be reviewed after every 10 years.

Q. When are you expecting it to be completed?

A. You can drive from Igatpuri to Nagpur by December 2020 at a speed of 150 km per hour. The patch between Thane and Igatpuri will be completed by 2021. It will take time because there will be a 14 km tunnel as well as bridges of around 25 km in length. Once the entire road is completed, one can reach Jamtha (on the outskirts of Nagpur) from Mulund check naka (on the outskirts of Mumbai) in six hours.

Q. Reports say you have discarded plans to build 20 integrated townships along the Samruddhi Corridor. Is that true?

A. No, we have started engaging the locals at six places and are going to do it at another two places soon. The townships will be built with the partnership of locals through land pooling system. We will take their land for building the townships on an average of 5,000 acre. They will be 30 per cent owners of the developed land. In simple words, if we take 10,000 metre of land from the locals, we will return 3,000 metre of developed land to them.

Q. Can you name the places where these locals have been engaged to build the townships?

A. We have already started talks in Fugale-Vashala (Thane), Dhote-Babtara (Aurangabad, Ahmednagar), Dhaygaon-Jambhargaon (Aurangabad), Hadas-Pimpalgaon (Aurangabad), Savargaonmal-Nimkheda (Buldhana) and Virul (Wardha). Apart from that we are going to talk to the villagers soon at Sabra-Kabra (Buldhana) and Kelzar (Wardha).

Q. How do you justify your claim that Samruddhi Corridor will generate 20 lakh jobs in 20 years?

A. Our claim is based on a study report submitted by infrastructure development company, Infrastructure Development Corporation (Karnataka) Limited. This figure is huge in comparison to the five lakh jobs generated in the Hinjewadi area because of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Courtesy: India Today