The farmers opposing the Mumbai-Nagpur Maharashtra Samruddhi Expressway, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s dream project, will start meeting leaders like Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and MNS chief Raj Thackeray to push their case. They announced their decision in Nashik on Tuesday after a meeting.
The agitating farmers have stated that they will not part with their agricultural land for the project and accused the state government of violating Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 which calls for approvals of gram panchayats before government projects are started.
“The government has been violating existing laws in the country to acquire land for the project. Of the 23 villages that are losing their land in Igatpuri, 19 come under the ambit of Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. Gram Sabhas in these villages had expressly stated that they do not want to part with their land. In spite of that the government got into an arrangement with a few people to acquire the land. This government is interpreting laws as per its won whims and we will fight this behaviour,” Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha’s state secretary Raju Desale said. “We have decided to meet Raj Thackeray on November 10. We also plan to meet Rahul Gandhi. We are forced to do this because the chief minister is not willing to hear us. Despite repeated requests for meetings, he is unwilling to give us time,” Desale added.
The meeting was organised as the acquisition process seems to have gathered some momentum with an important review meeting to be held by the CM on November 16 for the project. Farmers claimed that officials were under pressure to seal as many deals with farmers before the review meeting. The government needs to acquire nearly 8,400 hectares of land for the 700-km project. Government officials say that so far they have managed to complete the acquisition of only 1,000 hectares. The government is expecting to start work on the project by early next year. However, there is opposition to the project in many of the 355 villages through which the road will snake through. Meanwhile, MSRDC officials stated that there was no violation of rules by the agency while making these acquisitions.