Maharashtra development: Projects in the works & those being reviewed

Mumbai will see certain establishments such as cafes and eateries in malls remain open through the night, under the current government's pet project, Mumbai 24x7, from today. Image credit: Cididity Hat [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray’s pet project, Mumbai 24x7 will finally become a reality as certain commercial establishments in the city gear up to remain open throughout the night.  While food courts and eateries in malls and mills will remain open, the rule concerning bars and pubs, which puts the deadline as 1:30 am, stays.

The Maharashtra Government has introduced the project in a bid to drive tourism, generate jobs and boost the economy. Critics, however, cite security and the additional manpower and cost associated with keeping establishments open 24x7, to be reasons why such a project may not take off.  

Ever since coming to power, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government, led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena’s leader has announced a few development plans, initiated work on existing ones, and also reviewed or applied breaks on some projects that were launched by the previous BJP government. We take a look:

Smart Villages scheme: The State Rural Development Department will be increasing the cash prize under the Smart Village scheme which aims to reward villages that perform well in areas such as health, education, cleanliness, environment, use of technology and renewable energy sources.  The village that tops under the taluka level will get Rs 20 lakhs, while the topper under the district level, will get Rs 50 lakhs. The current prize money is Rs 10 lakhs and Rs 40 lakhs, respectively. The Government also plans to name it after the late NCP leader, RR Patil.

Food trucks: As part of the Mumbai 24x7 project, Mumbai will have also have food trucks in Juhu Chowpatty, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Girgaum Chowpatty, Worli Seaface, Nariman Point and near NCPA, which will cater to Mumbaikars between 10 pm and 6 a.m. As per reports, the food trucks will be equipped with foldable tables and chairs, while food inspectors will keep a check on the trucks to ensure that they follow correct norms in terms of noise decibels, hygiene and waste disposal practices.

Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link: Chief Minister Thackeray launched the first girder of the Mumbai -Trans Harbour Link project at Sewri, Mumbai, on January 15. While the project was first conceived around 45 years ago and was finally cleared in 2012, work began only in May 2018. The 6-lane wide road will connect Mumbai to Navi Mumbai, further connecting to JNPT and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Once completed, the Trans Harbour link will be the longest sea bridge in India. The 22-km long link road, which is estimated to cost Rs 18,000 crore, is expected to be completed by 2022.   

Sai Baba Janmabhoomi: A move that has been met with controversy, the Maharashtra Government recently announced a Rs 100 crore grant to Pathri in Marathwada to develop the place as Sai Janmasthan, or the birthplace of Sai Baba under the Pathri Pilgrimage Development Plan. While not much is known about the origins of Sai Baba, it is believed that he was born in Pathri and went to Shirdi in 1858, where he lived for the rest of his life. The move has been a bone of contention as the residents of Shirdi state that since there is no confirmation of the local birthplace of the saint, Pathri cannot claim to be the birthplace of Sai Baba.

Projects that are being reviewed

The Government has also put under review a number of projects that were approved under the BJP Government:

Aarey Metro Car shed: The Uddhav Thackeray led Government had ordered a review of the Aarey Metro Car Shed, which had run into huge controversy after Brihanmumbai Metropolitan Corporation (BMC) approved the felling of over 2,000 trees in Aarey forest for the construction of a metro shed for the 33-km long Colaba-Bandra-Seepz metro line. The Government has also transferred Ashwini Bhide, former Managing Director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), the special purpose vehicle for the Metro 3 after she pressed on with the project and also had a very public fallout with Aaditya Thackeray over the cutting of the trees.

Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train: The Maharashtra Government has also put the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious project, under review for the time being. While the project has faced stiff opposition from farmers and tribals over land acquisition, the state government has a debt of nearly Rs 5 lakh crores and is firm on giving unconditional loan waiver to farmers, rather than diverting funds to the project. Japan International Cooperation Agency was to bear 81 per cent of the Rs 1.1 lakh crores required for the project, while the Centre was to put in Rs 10,000 crore and the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat jointly were to put in Rs 5,000 crores.

Mumbai-Pune hyperloop: The proposed Mumbai-Pune hyperloop, which would have transported passengers from Mumbai to Pune in under 35 minutes, as opposed to the current journey time of upwards of three hours, has been put on hold by the government. The government felt that undertaking such a first-of-its-kind project could be a risky proposition and that it should be tried somewhere else before being brought to Maharashtra. While the concept of hyperloop was first introduced by Elon Musk, the USD 10 billion Virgin Hyperloop One project was being pushed by Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson. The Devendra Fadnavis government had accorded infrastructure status to the Hyperloop One project.

Raigad refinery: The Maharashtra Government has also put under review the proposed Rs 3 trillion Nanar Oil Refinery and Petrochemicals Complex, which was to be jointly developed with Saudi Arabia’s Aramco. Announced by the previous BJP government, the project had met with stiff opposition from 14 villages in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg which would have been affected by the project. The current Government has also released dropped cases against 23 protestors who had been taking part in anti-project protests for the past three years.