The Indian Army on Tuesday blamed the Maharashtra government for the delay in sanctioning 10 acres of defence land in Khadki, which has stalled work on the Pune Metro project in the area for 10 months, and said the government had not offered ‘Equal Value Land’ for the required land.
The Army said it had fast-tracked the procedure for transfer of land, but the state government had not reciprocated the gesture by offering a suitable piece of land in lieu of the land sought to be acquired. In a communication to The Indian Express, in response to a Pune Newsline report on Metro work being stuck at Khadki, the Army stated, “Pune Metro project is one of the very important infrastructure projects underway for Pune city. The Army is fully conscious of the importance of the project and has fast-tracked the procedure required for transfer of defence land for this project, wherein the proposal has already been submitted at the Ministry of Defence and is under consideration for grant of permission to commence work”
The Army said the state government was not following the policy vis-a-vis transfer of land. “The government policy requires the state government to offer suitable Equal Value Land to the Ministry of Defence… therefore, the proposal can only be progressed once the Equal Value Land is identified and offered by the state government. We are hopeful that the state machinery will accord adequate priority to ensure the timely offer of Equal Value Land to ensure development of the project,” stated the Army.
However, officials of MahaMetro, the agency in charge of implementing the project, said the Army should first suggest certain options. “They should suggest a piece of land which they require in a particular area. We will check whether the land is vacant, whether it is in possession of the state government and whether it can be transferred without any delay. Unfortunately, the Defence Ministry has failed to point out any particular piece of land in lieu of the land which we are seeking,” said Brijesh Dixit, managing director of MahaMetro.
Dixit said the agency has not received any communication from Defence Ministry in the last 10 months. “We require 10 acres of land in Khadki. We have sent several reminders … but so far, we have not received any response from the Ministry,” he said.
MahaMetro officials said they were ready to discuss the issue with the Army and officials of the Defence Ministry. “Let there be some urgent communication as the project is getting delayed. We have already allotted the work to a contractor… Metro work is taking place across Corridor One, except at Khadki,” said Metro officials.
Meanwhile, Congress’ Pune unit chief Ramesh Bagwe on Tuesday claimed that the state government, Union minister Prakash Javadekar and Pune MP Anil Shirole had done little to push Metro work further. “The BJP came to power at the Centre and at the state on the promise of ensuring development in the country. The Pune Metro project is a classic example of how the BJP is delaying development projects,” said Bagwe.
Pointing out that the Pune Metro project in Khadki had been stuck for months, Bagwe said, “Javadekar and MP Shirole have promised that they will help push the project. But both have been unsuccessful…”.
Congress general secretary Ramesh Iyer said the party would launch an agitation if the state government failed to resolve the land acquisition issue. “If the state government fails to resolve the issue… the Congress will be forced to launch an agitation,” he said.
The party said it will hold protests outside the residences of both Javadekar and Shirole if they failed to convince the Defence Ministry about the need to fast-track the Metro project.
Shiv Sena’s Maval MP, Shrirang Barne, also expressed surprise that the issue had not been resolved despite the BJP being in power at both the Centre and the state. “I will personally take up the issue with Defence Ministry officials,” said Barne.
On Monday, Javadekar said they were working on getting the land required for Pune Metro. “I can’t say when, but the issue will be resolved as soon as possible,” he told The Indian Express.