The Maharashtra government on Thursday announced an ambitious Communication Super Express Way mega project between Mumbai and Nagpur worth Rs 30,000 crore. The government’s decision has several far-reaching and significant socio-economic and political aspects.
To begin with, it would connect all the three backward regions of Vidarbha, Marathwada and North Mahrashtra. Secondly, the transport ministry is held by Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde, whose MSRDC would be the implementing agency in Maharashtra. The six-lane road project will be undertaken by the Union Ministry of Highways and Surface Transport and Maharashtra government. The implementing agency would be Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation.
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Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who declared the project in the state legislative assembly said, “The primary objective of the mega-project was to enhance road communication, criss-crossing and connecting backwards regions. Apart from drastically reducing the distance between Nagpur-Mumbai travel to 10 hours, it will cover the the backward regions of Vidarbha, part of North Maharashtra and Marathwada.”
While the Centre and State are still working on the revenue model for the project, Fadnavis assured, “The expenditure will not come in the way of the project.” Amongst various options, the public-private partnership (PPP) model is being worked out. A couple of days ago, Fadnavis held a meeting with Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari at Varsha in Mumbai. The state transport minister Eknath Shinde said, “We are ready with the presentation of the project which would include revenue model and other infrastructural aspects.”
Speaking about the project, Fadnavis said, “The project would be undertaken in two phases. It would be completed in a time-bound manner by 2019. The road passing through Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nashik, Nagpur will be complete with installation of CCTV, optic fibre and educational institutions. In the first phase beginning 2015 end, it will complete 4 lanes and later in the second half six lanes. Although Opposition leaders have raised questions on project fund raising by the government, Fadnvais has assured that the project has been undertaken after weighing all the pros and cons. “We have ensured its financial feasibility. Mumbai is the financial capital and Nagpur is the second capital of Maharashtra.”
The purpose of promoting the expressway was to create another industrial and agro-industries hub in state. Citing an example, he revealed, “Today, we have just a golden triangle – Mumbai-Pune and Nashik.” Despite several efforts by the successive governments in past, we have not been able to shift the industrial corridor away from these three prosperous Mumbai-Pune-Nashil triangle. Our effort is now to bring projects which would help to develop the backward regions namely in drought-hit and backward regions of Vidarbha, Marathwada and parts of North Maharashtra.”
However, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said that at the outset it is a great project to connect Nagpur and Mumbai. But the larger question is how would the government financially implement and make it feasible. “Are they going to introduce toll taxes? The government’s policy is against toll tax. So, when they engage public and private partners what alternative revenue model would they work out needs to be seen,” said Chavan.