The issue of bureaucrats allegedly acquiring huge tracts of land along the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur expressway was raised in the State Legislative Assembly and Council on Saturday.
Congress MLC Narayan Rane demanded an SIT inquiry into the allegations. All party MLAs staged demonstrations on Vidhan Bhavan premises at Nagpur where the winter session of the Assembly is in session.
The proposed Mumbai Nagpur Communication Expressway seems to have attracted the bureaucrats who allegedly purchased huge tracts of land along the expressway. And that seems to be the reason as to why the contractors are not willing to realign the road with the existing highway.
The revelation that several serving and retired bureaucrats had won huge tracts of land along the expressway came to light when Baban Harne, a resident of Shahapur village in Thane district sought information about the ownership of this land under the Right To Information Act.
Harne is a farmer who is set to lose his land for the expressway. "The government is acquiring our fertile land to build a road. The decision is being pushed hard despite the strong opposition from 26 villages which would be affected by the project. Ironically, the government is hell bent on acquiring our land for the road that is being built just two km away from the existing Mumbai-Agra National Highway Number 3," says Harne.
Despite the 26 Gramsabhas passing resolution opposing the project, the government has turned a blind eye to it.
Thousands of farmers, who will be displaced due to the project, took out a silent rally at Shahapur, blocking the Mumbai-Agra National Highway. They tried to meet government officials concerned to talk about the issue. A delegation even called on Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking his intervention to stop the land acquisition. But nothing seems to be working.
"The current alignment of the expressway will destroy farmers from 26 villages in Shahapur taluka. We met CM Devendra Fadnavis on 13 October and suggested alternatives. But it seems to have fallen on deaf ears."
"The proposed expressway has been conceived to reduce travel time between Mumbai to Nagpur. Ideally, it should reduce the distance if this goal is to be achieved. If the proposed expressway is amalgamated with the existing Mumbai-Agra National Highway up to Kasara, it will be reduced the total distance by 20 km, as against the current alignment of the road," Harne said.
He alleged that despite clear instructions given by Fadnavis during the meeting on 13 October, the officials concerned have not moved and they have done nothing to realign the road.
"The proposed road is just two km away from the existing NH 3. Moreover, it passes through the fertile land, whereas the alternative we have suggested is rocky and barren land. It would make more sense to realign the road to that patch instead of displacing thousands of poor farmers who solely depend on agriculture for their living," Harne said.
He says when even nothing happened even after two months of CM instructing to rethink on alignment, villagers started efforts to find out reasons.
"What we came to know was shocking. The land ownership details sought under RTI revealed that close relatives of serving and retired IAS officials had purchased huge land along the proposed alignment of the expressway. The intentions are clear. Buy land at dirt cheap prices now and reap mammoth compensation when the government will acquire it for the project," Harne said.
The issue was taken up in the ongoing winter session of the state assembly at Nagpur. Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik demanded an inquiry into the matter.
"It is a serious issue if the bureaucrats have connived to grab land in such a manner. CM must order a high-level inquiry into it and punish the guilty," he said.
Responding to the allegations, CM Devendra Fadnavis informed the House that an inquiry will be conducted into the allegations and no one will be spared.