In an unprecedented “attack”, Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari yesterday slammed the Indian Navy for creating obstacles in “development projects in Mumbai”, including opposing plans for a floating jetty at Nariman Point.
Recently, the Bombay High Court declined permission to a private operator for building a jetty to launch seaplane services and a floatel since it did not get the green signal of the navy’s Western Naval Command, ostensibly for security reasons.
“What does the navy have to do with Malabar Hill (in south Mumbai)? They should be guarding the borders of the country,” Gadkari remarked at a function where he laid the foundation stone for an international cruise terminal along with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Accusing the navy of “creating roadblocks” in development projects, Gadkari sought to know why all navy personnel wanted to live only in south Mumbai.
“They have come to me seeking a plot of land... I will not give them even an inch of land, please don’t come again,” Gadkari declared, in the presence of top naval, maritime and government officials, including Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Girish Luthra.
He claimed all government personnel wanted to build residential quarters in south Mumbai’s prime land. Only a few important, senior officials should live there, he said.
“We respect you, but you should be at the border... Land on the eastern seafront is being developed by the state government and Mumbai Port Trust which will be for the benefit of local citizens,” Gadkari added. “We are the government, the navy and defence ministry are not the government,” he said.
Gadkari also accused the navy of making “a habit” of stalling development projects and asked how was the force concerned with Malabar Hill area which is a residential zone with Raj Bhavan and the chief minister’s official residences.
The shipping minister urged the navy to resolve the issues, pointing out that he chairs a committee of delayed infrastructure projects which are cleared as soon as they are put up on the agenda.
Incidentally, south Mumbai’s Colaba area houses a large population of navy personnel, plus the headquarters of the WNC, residential quarters in Navy Nagar, and other pockets including Malad seafront.
The swanky new international cruise terminal which will come up at the Mumbai port is slated to cost Rs3bn, and will have all facilities similar to an airport with separate arrival and departure lounges and can cater to around 700,000 tourists annually arriving or departing by cruise liners. It is expected to be ready by December 2019.
Fadnavis said the international cruise terminal is part of the government’s four-pronged policy to develop Mumbai with water transport, a new international airport, roads and flyovers, and the underground Mumbai Metro.
“This will make Mumbai a global cruise destination, create huge employment opportunities, increase the number of tourists and contribute to the GDP growth of Mumbai and Maharashtra,” he said.
Spread over 4.15 lakh sq. feet, the terminal will be equipped to host cruise ships with a capacity of around 5,000 passengers, with restaurants, shopping, recreated and leisure activities, which would also be accessible to the local population.
Congress condemns Gadkari’s comments
The Congress yesterday hit out at Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari for slamming the Indian Navy for creating obstacles in “development projects in Mumbai” and said it was “shameful and unacceptable” and called the BJP “pseudo-nationalist”. Shameful and Unacceptable! Ex-BJP president and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari insults ‘Indian Navy’, questions their valour and dedication. “Pseudo-Nationalist BJP now wants to issue certificates of ‘loyalty’ to India’s armed forces,” tweeted Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
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