A day after a Morgan Stanley report claimed that 93% of land needed for the Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway had been acquired, the State Transport Department opened a probe into allegations of irregularities in construction of 24 interchanges on the 700-km stretch.
Chief Minster Devendra Fadnavis has directed outgoing Transport Secretary Manoj Saunik to look into the allegations made by activist Medha Patkar in a letter to the CM on June 15. “We have through a letter on June 19 directed the Transport Secretary to probe this,” said a senior official from the Chief Minister’s Office.
The Morgan Stanley report had claimed on June 18 that in less than 12 months, the government has acquired much of the 8,636 hectares land, including 7,298 hectares of private land, needed for the mega project. The 24 nodes (interchanges) are to be developed as smart cities along the ₹43,000-crore project.
Ms. Patkar has said she received several complaints from farmers of irregularities in the construction. A common practice, she claimed, is to “shuffle the area and location” of interchanges for the benefit of local politicians and officials, who own much of the land.
The letter alleged that according to a government notification last year, an interchange was planned covering villages of Gundewadi, Tandulwadi, Jamwadi, and other smaller villages in Jalna. “However, this interchange was later shifted to [a spot] near village Nidhona. According to my information, several industrialists, officials and office-bearers of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) are involved in shuffling of the nodes. It is undoubted the nodes are being shuffled and shifted because of political pressures. This must be probed immediately,” Ms. Patkar said.
The expressway project, also known as the Samruddhi Corridor, is estimated to cost ₹46,000 crore, of which the Asian Development Bank is expected to provide ₹13,750 crore.
The Shiv Sena has already opposed the land acquisition proceedings, calling them forced and unfair to farmers from the region.