The Economic Survey of 2014-15 had given Maharashtra the dubious distinction of having the largest number of stalled projects in the country. RTI documents obtained by activist Venkatesh Nayak shows that only 13 of these projects were stalled due to problems of land acquisition. Majority of the projects were stalled due to unfavourable market conditions.
The survey had listed 804 stalled projects, including infrastructure, real estate and other projects. It had not mentioned land acquisition as a major problem. However, industry bodies have been holding problems of land acquisition responsible for the slowdown in the economy. The government’s recent land acquisition ordinance has met stiff opposition, both inside and outside the Parliament, with some of its allies protesting against it.
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Analysis of the data issued by the Ministry of Finance shows that out of the 125 projects stalled in the state, around 80 per cent are from the private sector. Townships, luxury residential projects, shopping malls, energy projects are some of the projects which have been stalled. The most common reason cited was unfavourable market conditions.
Pune airport, Kharghar living Heritage projects, Wardha Naini coal-based project, river and irrigation dams in Konkan, Jalna electricity sub station projects, Wadala truck terminal project, Kopta Raigad SEZ project, Panchgani wind power projects and others have been listed among the projects stalled due to land acquisition. Also, a shopping mall and market projects in Nagpur and a mega thermal power project are on this list.
The land acquisition ordinance has become a contentious issue with the central government on the back foot due to the opposition to the bill. Nayak, questioning the government’s haste in pushing the ordinance, said the RTI documents painted a different picture all together. “The original bill should have been implemented and if necessary, amendments brought into it. However, as the documents show, the government’s argument that land acquisition is a major dampener for industrial growth does not hold much water,” he said.
In Maharashtra, activists Anna Hazare, Vishwambhar Choudhari, Swabhimani Shetkari MP Raju Shetti have started opposing the bill tooth and nail. Choudhari, citing the example of the nuclear power project in Jaitapur, said that although the environmental clearance for the project was issued five years back, the project had not been taken up. “The government requires easy scapegoats to hide its mismanagement. This season, land acquisition and environmental clearance are the scapegoats,” Choudhari said.