The Maharashtra government has given its final nod to the Rs 46,000-crore Prosperity Corridor with the primary objective of pushing agro-industrial growth to bridge the divide between the rural and urban areas of the state.
Along with the 706 km eight-lane Nagpur-Mumbai Supercommunication Expressway, the corridor would also see the development of 24 townships that would alter the landscape of 354 villages across 30 talukas and ten districts of the state. The districts include Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Washim, Buldhana, Aurangabad, Jalna, Ahmednagar, Nashik and Thane.
The plan document states that the purpose of the project is employment generation, growth of agricultural and agro-based activities, building infrastructure and slowing down the rate of migration from rural to urban Maharashtra. Setting a deadline of 2019 for project completion, the corridor has adopted the Amravati (Andhra Pradesh) land pooling model for land acquisition. The project — to be tied up through public-private-partnership model — has seen the state government setting aside Rs 12,000 crore for the development of 24 nodes (townships).
However, the biggest challenge before the government is to get the consent from 354 villages for acquiring a total of 20,820 hectares through the land pooling model. The total land required for the Nagpur-Mumbai Expressway alone would be 8,520 hectares while the development of 24 nodes will need 10,800 hectares along with the additional requirement of 1,500 hectares for building wayside amenities.
The government’s optimism in getting the land is based on the fact that only 8 per cent of it comes in the category of fertile agricultural land. In Buldhana district, the villagers have given their consent for land pooling for the entire 1,400 hectares of land required. The farmers in Ahmednagar have also given their consent for the 650 hectares of land.
Similar reports have come in from district Jalna. In other districts like Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, Thane, Washim and Malegaon the negotiations between the land owners and the government are underway.
The Prosperity Corridor encompasses two major components — the 8- lane Nagpur-Mumbai Supercommunication Expressway and the construction of 24 nodes to be built simultaneously. Each node would have its own distinct identity based on their geography and climate.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has said, “Prosperity Corridor is being designed for sustainable growth with emphasis on agro-industries in rural and backward districts of Maharashtra. The project is so massive it will open up multiple sectors with each township along the expressway emerging as a self reliant model. From textile sector to IT hubs, each node will have its distinct character developed to tackle the local requirements of livelihood of the people and growth.”
The list for all 24 nodes has been prepared after surveying the local requirements and potential for growth. If Taloja is being evolved for food processing, Jamtha (on the outskirts of Nagpur) will be an IT hub and a knowledge city. Wardha has been earmarked to be developed as an eco-tourism and agro-hub, Dhamangaon as an agro and food processing bloc, Malegaon for healthcare/solar power, Mehkar an IT hub, and Sindhkhed Raja will have amusement and food parks.
“The project ensures greater regional connectivity and equitable development as it passes through Vidarbha, North Maharashtra, Marathwada, Western Maharashtra and the Konkan region,” Fadnavis said. The expressway is designed to bring down the travel time from present 16 hours to 8 hours, paving the way for east-west and north-south connectivity across five regions of the state.
Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation managing director, R L Mopalwar said, “The 706 km greenfield alignment has been designed for emergency plane landing of five km in each revenue division. It will have Wi-Fi access, traffic surveillance and CCTV to monitor the entire length.”
The plan includes food plazas, restaurants, shops and wayside with trauma centres, bus bays, truck terminus among others. The project will serve connectivity to dry ports of Jalna, Wardha to the JNPT. The government has indicated that development of township will take greater time compared to the eight-lane expressway. The plan document indicates that each node can generate employment of 20,000 to 25,000 persons. It would open avenues for new businesses and have institutions for skill developments.
According to the plan document, the hotels, malls, petrol pumps, offices, hospitals, educational institutions, ware houses, cold storages will provide new job opportunities. For construction activities, the plan document suggests use of local material like fly ash and plastic which is readily available and would be economically feasible.
The project emphasises that the land pooling will provide better financial and livelihood benefit to land owners compared to land compensation model. Arguing against the land-pooling model, social activist Ulka Mahajan said, “When the farmers’ land is acquired the immediate concern relates to his/her livelihood. What provision does the land pooling provide?”
“The ownership rights of developed plots at market rates does not help farmers as it takes several years to appreciate. By then, farmers would moved out of their villages in search of other livelihood options, “ she added. According to Mopalwar, “We have provided ownership of urban land without any pre-condition along with annuity with 10 per cent increase year-on-year, assured buy back after 10 years and no change in land records.”
Elaborating the benefits, he said, “One acre of dry crop land through land pooling results in developed land of 10,896 sq ft.” Simply put, for one acre of land acquired, the farmer will get a developed plot of 10,896 sf ft. Only difference is that it would not be located in the same vicinity but a little away in the adjoining township.
Similarly, one acre of irrigated land when developed and handed to individual will work to 13,079 st ft. In terms of percentage, benefit for dry crop land comes to 20 per cent and for irrigation land 30 per cent approximately.
Translated in terms of actual amount, one acre of dry crop land worth Rs 20,000 (annuity) factored with 10 per cent escalation at the end of ten years will fetch Rs 2,90,000. Whereas, one acre irrigated land worth Rs 40,000 (annuity) taking 10 per cent escalation at the end of 10 years will fetch Rs 5,80,000. However, in every district the land price will vary. The buyback provision guarantees at the end of ten years of paying compensation equal to four times of land value plus interest rate at 9 per cent per annum for ten years.