Maharashtra’s much-touted plan to develop a new showpiece city around the Navi Mumbai Airport, which would be 1.5 times larger than the country’s economic capital Mumbai, has run into troubled waters. Three years after a swathe of towns and villages spread over 560 square kilometres and covering six talukas in Raigad district were bundled together for developing this city — NAINA, coined after the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area — close to 36 designated villages have now said that they do not wish to be part of the development and should be excluded from the plan.
All the 36 villages are part of the politically volatile Panvel taluka, where the state government is planning to set up a new municipal corporation, sources confirmed. Together, they account for 69.90 sq. kilometer or 12.5 per cent of total area designated for NAINA.
While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last week decided against including these villages in the proposed Panvel municipality and has retained them in NAINA, the elected gram panchayats in these villages have started adopting independent resolutions for their exit from NAINA. Even as the Maharashtra government has appointed the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) as the planner for NAINA, most of these villages want to be included in the Panvel municipality.
Rajendra Patil, a member of the Raigad Zilla Parishad, who represents the Kolkhe village that abuts the town area in Panvel, informed that the village gram panchayat adopted a resolution for exclusion from NAINA Wednesday. “There is consensus among villagers that they do not wish to continue under the NAINA plan. While we are not averse to urbanisation, all of us feel we would be better served by the proposed municipality,” Patil said.
Patil is a local politician of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. “CIDCO has been selling dreams for planned development under the NAINA model, but the fact is that our development has been virtually stalled for three years now with the government yet to finalise the development plan for NAINA,” he added.
Patil said, “Villagers feel NAINA’s development model is tilted to favour big developers and works against interest of local farmers. For instance, there is a criterion that the minimum land to be pooled for development is 10 hectare or 25 acres.” The CIDCO has designed a new land aggregation model for NAINA where the participants would be provided developed lands with compensatory floor space index in lieu of land surrendered to CIDCO for building infrastructure. Although CIDCO has now revised the minimum land pooling norms to 7.5 hectares or 18 acres, locals` feel even this favours construction magnates.
“It is just a garb to release farm lands held by villagers to the builder lobby. Several builders have already invested here,” said Anesh Dawale, a former Sarpanch of Shivkar village, which has also decided to vote for exclusion from NAINA. Dawale, too, is a BJP member.
Panvel’s MLA Prashant Thakur, also from the BJP, who has been pushing for formation of the municipality, said, “Civic services have taken a hit in villages designated under NAINA. While there can be no opposition to plans for an integrated development, villagers feel that the development conditions imposed under the NAINA model work against their interests. Being elected representatives, we are accountable to aspirations of the people.”
Dawale says civic services in these villages have suffered after the government curbed powers of the Sarpanch, and gram panchayats in the region, a contention CIDCO officials vehemently deny. A bigger setback for the government and CIDCO is that the Peasants’ and Workers Party (PWP), which enjoys considerable clout in these villages and controls the Raigad Zilla Parishad along with the NCP, too, is now opposing the NAINA model.
PWP leader Vivekanand Patil, a former three-time MLA from Uran assembly constituency (previously undivided Panvel constituency), who had previously backed the plan, said his party was now opposed to the NAINA model. “After studying the model in detail, we feel the development conditions are impractical and tilted to favour developers.” The PWP holds sway over a majority of gram panchayats. Interestingly while the PWP, too, has backed the demand that these villages be included in the municipality, it has placed a demand. “Our demand is that all villages in Panvel taluka should be municipalised at one go,” said PWP’s Jayant Patil.
Vivekanand Patil, meanwhile, pointed out that the initial notification for formation of the Panvel municipality had included 68 villages including those designated under NAINA. The CM-led Urban Development department issued a notification on May 16. The taluka has over 100 villages. “There is no justification for non-inclusion of NAINA villages now,” he said.
Manisha Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary, Urban Development, said, “The government has taken a considered decision regarding non-inclusion of these villages after going through suggestions and objections and considering independent reports submitted by the Divisional Commissioner and CIDCO.” Fadnavis, when contacted, hinted that the government had no plans for reconsidering its decision in the wake of the local opposition. “We will allow the new municipality (as proposed) to come into existence. We can later rethink based on the situation on the ground,” he said.
But Vivekanand Patil said he would drag the government to court over the matter. Even the NCP, the other big political player in the region, is backing the villagers plan to exit from NAINA, sources confirmed. CIDCO Joint Managing Director Prajakta Lavangare Verma said, “NAINA was conceptualised after the Centre, while granting environment clearance for the airport project, insisted on revision of the development plan to avoid haphazard growth around the district. The entire concept is designed to ensure integrated planned growth. A lot of groundwork has already been done. We are working closely with villagers, and would ensure that all of them are on board.”
Incidentally, formation of the Panvel municipality is shrouded in controversy. The government has initially proposed that the new civic body would be spread over 179.96 sq. kilometers and cover 68 villages (including those under NAINA) besides the existing Panvel municipal council. But now, besides excluding the 36 villages under NAINA, the Chief Minister has decided to retain CIDCO as the planning agency for another 21 villages covering 75.19 sq. kilometer. This would include rural belts in Kamothe, Kalamboli, Kharghar, and New Panvel where CIDCO has already developed partially. Questions are being raised over existence of multiple controlling agencies. At present, the MMRDA is the planners for 11 other villages proposed under the municipality, whereas the MIDC and MSRDC, too, have certain belts under their jurisdiction.