Chipi Airport and woes of project affected people of Sindhudurg

The forthcoming October 9 inauguration of the Chipi Domestic airport terminal at Sindhudurg that lies on the coastal Konkan stretch of Maharashtra is currently steeped with complaints about how the then state government duped the project affected people (PAPs) into parting with their land possessions at throw-away prices.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is slated to perform the inauguration that will be attended by Union Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union MSME minister Narayan Rane and top central ministry officials, including From the state level, Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut with a team of other top Sainiks will be present at the venue.

On the inaugural day, Alliance Air, the regional arm of the national carrier Air India will be operating flights between Mumbai and Sindhudurg, the venue being named Greenfield airport in the Konkan region.

Opposition leaders from the Janata Dal party in Maharashtra cited that the state government acquired the land way back in 2007 for paltry pricing of Rs 600 per acre, which works out to be Rs 1500 per hectare. At that point in time, the government managed to acquire 175 hectares from the locals at the Rs 1500 pricing. Besides, an additional 97 hectares of land was obtained by the government for which the pricing ranged from Rs 3,000 to Rs 40,000.  

Furthermore, against the decision of acquiring 272 hectares, the government finally settled with the acquisition of 305 hectares. In view of the local farmers registering a massive protest, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the state government body, agreed to purchase the additional 33 acres of land for which the pricing yielded the farmers Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh per acre.

The JD leader Prabhakar Narkar along with local activists has submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state industries minister Subhash Desai seeking that those project-affected farmers who had parted with land for a throw-away price must be adequately compensated by the state government. The memorandum sought that these farmers be given plots of developed land to ensure their sustenance.

Narkar pointed out that as far back as 1975, the project affected people from a neighbouring site, Kudal were offered Rs 5,000 per acre of land for the purpose of setting up an industrial estate. "More than three decades down the line you are offering less than one-third the per hectare price for the Chipi airport project. This is a fraud perpetrated on the PAPs of the Chipi airport project," he contended.

"The original plan was only to acquire 52 hectares of land as it envisaged only an airstrip. However, the plan changed after a decision was made to set up a full-fledged airport. This led to 272 hectares of land being acquired. Subsequently, the figure went up to 305 hectares. The locals of Sindhudurg were tolerant on the land acquisition process owing to their expectations about the development that would result in their region," he said. 

Additionally, he also disclosed that MIDC received Rs 20 crores from the IRB Sindhudurg Airport Pvt Ltd. In sharp contrast, the PAPs were hardly paid Rs 1.74 crores. The MIDC leased the land to IRB for a period of 95 years, with a rental charge of Rs 8 lakh per hectare. Here again, there is a glaring difference as compared to what was offered to the PAPs.   

Historically, dating decades back, the current minister Rane had performed the Bhoomi pujan for Chipi airport way back in 1990. Two years ago, the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and former Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu had inaugurated the new terminal building and other facilities at the Greenfield airport. The Centre at that point in time was planning to launch flights under the UDAN scheme from this airport.

The project, having undergone a series of delays ever since the commencement of work from the Special Purpose Vehicle IRB, with MIDC acting as the nodal facilitating agency, will soon be operating flights on the Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur sectors. The government as of now plans to enhance its scope of operation and offer inter-state connectivity to Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu besides other regions. Currently, the airport has the capacity to handle up to 400 passengers on the basis of 2 flights per hour estimate.

The airport can handle aircraft from both stables, namely the European Airbus Consortium and also the American Boeing models that will include A-320 and B-737 besides others. It's expected to give a fillip to tourism in Konkan, renowned for its magnificent coastline, dazzling beaches, big and small rivers, creeks, abundant greenery and natural beauty, ancient temples, sea and land forts, a rich cultural heritage, unique lifestyle and major historical landmarks.

The Chipi Airport will also create more opportunities for the regional economy as the state government has announced plans to develop the coastal Konkan stretch as a major tourist and business-cum-leisure travel hub.

Meanwhile, unmindful of the plight of the PAPs, there is a battle raging between current Union minister Narayan Rane and the ruling Shiv Sena state government as to who should get credit for the project.


  • Unmesh Gujarathi
    Unmesh Gujarathi

    Unmesh our Editor-at-large is one of the most prolific editors with a career that spans over two decades in leading media houses like The Asian Age, The Free Press Journal, Lokmat etc. Currently, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Sprouts, a daily broadsheet. Unmesh is particularly known for his exposé that have unearthed major scandals of corruption and scoops.

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