Even before the work of the proposed Navi Mumbai international airport fully gears up, claims by different groups to name the airport, after their leaders, has stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had performed the bhoomi poojan for the Rs16,000-crore project on 18 February 2018 and had also e-launched the commissioning of phase I of the fourth container terminal at JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust), during his visit. Subsequently the Shiv Sena Minister Anant Geete, had opined that the airport could be named after Chhatrapati Shivaji, since the new airport is being constructed, to ease traffic burden on Mumbai airport, which has already been named after the great Maratha warrior.
However the followers of veteran Peasants and Workers’ Party (PWP) leader late D B Patil, have begun a campaign demanding the naming of the airport after him. They have also opened a Facebook page titled “Loknete Diba Patil Vimantal, Navi Mumbai” and have been sharing information about project-affected people, the work allotted by CIDCO to different contractors etc. allegedly by passing local contractors (sons of the soil). In addition, PWP has passed a resolution stating that the airport be named after Patil. Similar resolutions have also been passed by the Agri Samaj Parishad and “Loknete Diba Patil Vimantal Kriti Samiti”.
Commenting on the issue, former PWP MLA Vivek Patil told this correspondent that letters have been sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and officiating civil aviation minister Ramesh Prabhu, demanding that the airport be named after Patil since he had taken initiative in development of Uran, Panvel and other areas of Raigad.
As against this the “Uran Sangharsha Samiti “(USS), apparently having allegiance to Congress, has also sent a letter to Prime minister Narendra Modi on 19 April demanding that the airport be named after senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister and Central Minister late Abdul Rehman Antulay. The letter lists out various measures initiated by Antulay.
Gopal Patil convenor of the USS Gopal Patil said that the contribution of Antulay was immense in ensuring development of Raigad. Basically, erstwhile Kolaba district was renamed as “Raigad” by Antulay, since Raigad was the capital of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Besides, memorials of freedom fighters were set up all over the state with government expenses, within short time, at his initiative. Many major projects including, RCF, Deepak Fertlisers, BPCL (bottling plant), JNPT, Bombay High offshore projects were brought in Uran and adjoining areas by Antulay in his capacity as the chief minister. As such it is in all fitness of things, the airport should be named after him, he added.
Antulay’s son-in-law Mushtaq Antulay too said that he has been instrumental in bringing in many industrial projects to Raigad, which otherwise would have gone to neighbouring states. It is the local people’s demand to name the airport after him and now it is up to the central government to consider it.
In another development the “Aadya Krantiveer Vasudev Balwant Phadke Smarak Samiti (AKVBPS) has also written to the chief minister demanding that the airport be named after veteran freedom fighter Vasudev Balwant Phadke, described as “the father of militant nationalism in India”. Phadke who was transported to jail at Aden (Yemen) by the Britishers, undertook a fast unto death and died on 17 February 1883. He was born in Shirdhon village of Panvel taluka in Raigad. The house at Shirdhon still exists but it is in a bad shape.
Jayendra Saraf, Secretary of the AKVBPS said that the Samiti has written to the chief minister requesting that the airport be named after Phadke. “ Phadke was not engaged in any land deal in the area, but the history has proved that he laid down his life for the country at young age. This itself is a testimony of his work. Finally it is up to the government, but I don’t think any lobbying should be done to recognize the service of the active and dedicated freedom fighter like Phadke”.
In the meanwhile, the maiden flight is expected to take off at the Navi Mumbai international airport by 2019 end and the government wants one runway (3.7km-long) of the airport ready by that time. As of now 40 per cent villagers have been shifted and 36% of the hill land has been levelled up. The CIDCO’s rental scheme, which provides for rent to families for 18 months—during which they are supposed to build or get new houses, has not met with success.
CIDCO is also facing an uphill task of relocating project affected persons (PAPs) and clearing the land by flattening Ulwe hill and diverting the Ulwe river by December-end this year. A Rs 2,033-crore work order for the hill operation and diversion of river was issued on April 24, 2017, but not much work could be done, since many months were lost, first due to monsoon and then due to protests by villagers in October last. The Varshchaowle and Waghivali Wada villages, which abut a portion of the hill, are expected to be empty soon. They are two of the 10 villages in the core airport area.
Two zilla parishad schools are expected to start in the new academic year in Vadghar and Wahal, where the villagers have been given developed plots in lieu of their houses. 945 primary school students can get enrolled in the new academic session in June this year, a CIDCO spokesman said.