Sunday, June 27, 2021

Why Mumbai’s second airport is embroiled in controversy

Mumbai: In one of the biggest protests in recent times, around 50,000 residents of Navi Mumbai tried to gherao the headquarters of the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra or CIDCO at Belapur on June 24. They wanted to name the still-under-construction Navi Mumbai International Airport after the late socialist leader Di. Ba. Patil. They had gathered under the aegis of the Navi Mumbai International Airport Namakaran Kruti Samiti (NVIAKS), an organisation comprising mainly of sons-of-the-soil whose land parcels have been acquired for constructing Mumbai’s second international airport. CIDCO is the nodal authority for this airport, situated 24 km from the existing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) at Sahar.

On the day of the protest, the traffic police had to divert vehicular movement between Mumbai and Pune bypassing Belapur, the business district of Navi Mumbai, as protesters had blocked the road connecting these two cities. As a result, around 125,000 vehicles had to take a longer route. Dashrath Patil, president of NVIAKS, says the protest was inevitable as the Maharashtra government is adamant on naming the airport after Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder of the Shiv Sena.

Ramsheth Thakur, a former Lok Sabha member from Panvel, says if the airport is not named after Di. Ba. Patil by August 15, the project-affected people will stall its construction. CIDCO falls under the urban development department, headed by Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde.

Aviation is a central subject but state governments, too, have the right to name or rename a specific airport within their territory with the Centre’s consent. Shinde had asked CIDCO in December 2020 to send a proposal to name the airport after Thackeray. It was cleared in late April. Subsequently, the state cabinet has also decided to approve the proposal. Dashrath Patil, however, is adamant on his demand. “We respect Balasaheb a lot,” he says, “but the contribution of Di. Ba. Patil in the development of Navi Mumbai should not be neglected.”

27/06/21 Kiran Tare/India Today

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