MD and vice-chairman of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation R L Mopalwar discusses the challenges of acquiring 10,000 hectares and building the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Corridor — a six-hour road connectivity plan with 24 townships planned as hospitality and educational hubs.
Shaji Vikraman: With regard to the Samruddhi Corridor, how big are the challenges before MSRDC and are we managing them, now that we are getting into bidding and land transfer?
The biggest challenge before the MSRDC is land. It is a green field alignment like with the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. But that was 95 km, we are now constructing seven-and-a-half times its length — 700 km at one stretch. It is not in phases. Our total land requirement is 10,000 hectares and 20,000 families will be affected. So the biggest challenge happens to be possession of land and we have started that. We have declared rates across the entire length — 10 districts — and there has been tremendous response. We have started the registration of sale deeds. Since we are going by negotiation and consent, the first challenge is consent. However, even registering 20,000 sale deeds in three months is a huge challenge. Because the same plot has several stakeholders — different family members, land might have been mortgaged to somebody. So it is an administrative challenge now.
Shaji Vikraman: What about the resistance? In Shahapur and other districts?
In 10 districts there are 392 villages. There was some resistance in Shahapur, but now … I have got 100 per cent consent there. Of the 68-km stretch of the project in Thane district, 54 km is in Shahapur taluka, 10 km in Kalyan taluka and 4 km in Bhiwandi taluka. All those agitations were in Shahapur taluka, but now registrations are happening there. The resistance was more through people who do not have any land in the right of way, but are activists.
The second pocket of resistance is in Nashik district. Out of the 100 km (49 villages), there is resistance in 10 km. Shivde village is completely opposed, but the road spans 4.5 km there. Of the 54 hectares, 38 hectares are irrigated land with orchards, and they are highly concerned. Two-three villages in the east and west of Shivde are also opposing the project, but nobody else.
The problem is for speed geometry of 150 km, we cannot change the alignment. If upto Shivde and after it there is no resistance, then for one village we cannot take a detour. We are engaging them in dialogue.
Aurangabad has the longest stretch of the 700 km — 112.5 km and 62 villages. Of them, one village, Malewada, feels that the alignment should be shifted but they have an issue over rates. They say if the rates are good, they will consent.
So over all, of the 700 km, there is Malewada in Aurangabad and Shivde in Nashik where alignment is an issue of resistance. Jalna 42 km, 25 villages — almost no resistance. Of 392 villages, if we have resistance in 30, what can we do in a speed geometry? The way out is to keep talking and finish the rest of the work.
Shubhangi Khapre: What are the highest and lowest rates offered for the land?
From 15 lakh to Rs 1 crore per acre.
Kavitha Iyer: But often subsequent generations are unable to sustain themselves without land. Is there any other rehabilitation that you are offering apart from payment for land?
That’s what we offered, but it was rejected. The media didn’t support us, NGOs didn’t support us, the activists didn’t support us. They ridiculed it. We said we would give developed land, take care of skilling the children and reskilling the owners. Initially, we said we’ll skill them in IT, nursing and other vocational courses. Then as per demand, we said we could underwrite the entire expense for medical, engineering and competitive exams. We issued the GRs in July. Even today, after payment of money, we are seriously thinking of bringing in some investment advisory activity across the state.
We are in discussion with the Skill Development Council of India that even if people did not become partners, we will start skill development centres at all those 20-24 locations where there are interchanges. More than 50% of families are going back to farming because they are buying land.
Shubhangi Khapre: We see the Samruddhi project as one component of the expressway and then the development of the 24-25 nodes. How big is the challenge and are they going to be simultaneously executed?
The 24 nodes in our land-pooling model could have been rolled out simultaneously. But since we are paying compensation for the land for the road, we decided to focus on the roads first. We have notified all interchanges as townships. We have experience of Mumbai-Pune expressway where we did not plan townships, which led to unplanned development. We have already notified 18 townships, we may notify another two- three. But not 24. We have consent in 6 places — 2 talukas in Wardha, 2 in Thane and 2 in Aurangabad. That is where we will develop the townships first. Rest of the places we will have proper development plans. Interchanges become a thriving township, maybe by private initiative. We will do the trunk infrastructure.
Mayura Janwalkar: How many educational institutions have expressed interest in setting up centres in these townships?
By now 3-4 international schools have proposed. In fact, Symbiosis has expressed interest. They will want to be at the nodes. This is one place which will not have litigations or court cases. It is so difficult to acquire 100 acres or 50 acres. If you are an investor and want 50 acres, you get land up to 40-42 acres. The next 8 acres is such a difficult thing to acquire, because the locals start creating trouble. When government allots land it is trouble-free, litigation-free, with clear title.
Rouhan Sharma: At what stage is the funding for the Samruddhi Corridor?
We are at a comfortable stage. The day the government approves the draft concessionaire, it will be done. There are two things: We are creating a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for this project. MSRDC is raising Rs 10,000 crore for the land acquisition, with Rs 5,000 crore coming from the banks and the rest from MIDC, CIDCO and MHADA.
Mayura Janwalkar: One of the main reasons for encouraging the Samruddhi project is to bring down intra-state migration. How much will it help, has there been an analysis?
Maharashtra generally sees 50% non-farm employment in the city. However, Amravati division has 75% of its people relying on farming activity. If you create employment in that area, they will stay there. A study on the employment generation due to this project is still not in place. For the next three months, the focus will be on procuring land.
Shubhangi Khapre: The Chief Minister announced that this project will boost the port-led economy in India. Could you elaborate.
India sees 65% of its containerised cargo come and go out of JNPT. While today’s travel time in India is 250 kilometres a day, the worldwide average is 800 km in a day to reach the port. The expressway will establish that connectivity. Also, central India will be connected to Vishakapatnam.