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Monday, September 27, 2021

Explained: Why are there protests over naming new Mumbai airport after Bal Thackeray?

There have been massive protests against a proposal to name the upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport after Bal Thackeray.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: August 17, 2021 8:36:51 am
Thousands from Thane and Raigad districts, mobilised by local groups seeking for Navi Mumbai airport to be named after late socialist leader D B Patil, staging a massive protest. (Express photo by Narendra Vaskar)

There have been massive protests in Navi Mumbai, Raigad, Thane and Palghar district against a proposal to name the upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport after Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. Protesters want the airport to be named after a local hero D B Patil.

Why are thousands of villagers in the Navi Mumbai area protesting against the name of the new airport?

The protests are over the plan to name the airport after Balasaheb Thackeray.

In December last year, Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde had written to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) asking it to propose that the airports be named after the Shiv Sena founder, who is also the father of the present Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. CIDCO followed through on the letter.

The locals and villagers claim that from the start of the greenfield airport project, political leaders had agreed to the idea of naming the project after DB Patil and that this is well known to the present government too. However, they say, suddenly and without consulting local people, it was decided to name the airport after Thackeray.

The move has angered the people of Thane and Raigad. Now, the Navi Mumbai Airport All Party Action Committee, a group formed by the protesters, has threatened to stall work on the greenfield airport, if their demand is not met.

Who is DB Patil?

Dinkar Balu Patil, also known as D B Patil, was born in Jasai, a village in the Uran taluka of Raigad district. He was associated with the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP). Born into a farmer’s family, he did his LLB in 1951 and a year later won the Kolaba district local board election. He then represented Panvel in the Assembly for five terms between 1957 and 1980. He was the Kolaba MP in 1977 and 1984, as well as a member of state legislature council in 1992. He was also Opposition leader in Assembly twice between 1972-77 and 1982-83.

In 1975 he came out against the emergency and was arrested.

Why do the people hold him in such high regard?

Patil led several protests for farmers and land owners in Panvel district when CIDCO acquired land in the area in the 70s and 80s. In a massive protest in 1984, four farmers died, which eventually forced the state government to bring in the 12.5 per cent developed land scheme for local farmers that, as of today, is applicable across the state. He fought for the villagers of Uran area while JNPT acquired their land and led protest even sitting in ambulance at the age of 86. Patil died in 2012 aged 87 due to the old age.

“Whenever there would be any issues that are troubling farmers, workers or landowners in the region, Patil was the one who would lead the protest for their welfare and would fight for the issues of the affected people in front of government. Because of him thousands of land owners and farmers have got justice and their rights and hence he was known as Mass Leader. He would only think about the welfare of people and wouldn’t allow any injustice towards them,” said Dashrath Patil, the president of Navi Mumbai Airport All Party Action Committee.

“He sacrificed his whole life for giving rights to the landowners, workers, farmers and other communities in the region. It is important the airport project should be dedicated to the leader who has worked on the land where the airport is being built now,” he said, remembering how Patil was loved by the locals.

Apart from farmers and landowners, Patil also led from the front for the rights of OBCs.

Prashant Thakur, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA says, “So far no major project in Navi Mumbai or Raigad district has been dedicated to the late DB Patil who had all his life fought for the welfare and reforms of farmers of the region where the airport is being built. Balasaheb Thackeray’s name has already been given to Sammrudhi Highway and hence it would be appropriate that the airport is named after Patil. The government should not ignore the demands of the locals.”

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Where exactly is Navi Mumbai airport being built?

The Navi Mumbai International Airport is said to be one of largest Greenfield airports in the world. It is being constructed in Panvel. The construction was delayed and it has missed its 2019 deadline. The airport is considered as an extension of existing Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport at Mumbai and is being planned to ease the congestion at MIA.

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