Mumbai: Even as the BJP-led government at the Centre and the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government are at loggerheads on various issues, the bonhomie between Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was evident at a meeting here on Thursday, to review the road and highway projects in the state. Gadkari and Thackeray not only showered praise on each other but complimented each other for cooperation in timely pursuit of state and national highway projects. Gadkari, the blue-eyed boy of Uddhav’s father and Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray, has maintained cordial relations with the Sena, despite the BJP and Shiv Sena parting ways after the 2019 assembly elections.
At a time when the Centre has claimed ownership of the Kanjurmarg land that was proposed for the Metro 3 carshed, to which the MVA Government responded with a tit-for-tat opposition to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, Gadkari announced the approval of an annual plan of Rs 5,801 crore, up from Rs 2,727 crore, to improve the 1,035km of National Highways in the State and release of Rs 1,800 crore from the Central Road Fund for state roads in Maharashtra. On his part, Thackeray assured the waiver of state GST on the cement and steel to be used in the extension of the Rs one lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai Expressway up to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. The state government will also not charge royalty on other construction materials.
‘’The Rs 1 lakh crore greenfield Delhi-Mumbai Expressway will be extended till JNPT to facilitate container traffic. The Maharashtra Government will partner in its construction by the means of GST exemption and royalty-free supply of steel and cement, which will be considered as State Government equity in the project,’’ said Gadkari.
Thackeray sought Gadkari’s intervention for an early removal of roadblocks in the early completion of national highways in Maharashtra. He also assured Gadkari that the state government would fast-track land acquisition and clearance from the forest department in the development of the Sant Dnyaneshwar Palkhi Marg between Alandi and Pandharpur and the Sant Tukaram Palkhi Marg between Dehu and Pandharpur.
Gadkari, who was called 'Pulkari' (one who constructed 55 flyovers in Mumbai and Mumbai-Pune expressway) by Bal Thackeray, announced the Rs 6,000-crore Surat-Nashik-Ahmednagar-Solapur highway project for traffic bound to the southern states. The proposed project will reduce traffic congestion in and around Mumbai.
Gadkari said 523 projects, of a total length 14,409km and a total cost of Rs 1,37,543 crore were under various stages of implementation. He added that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has built 3,771km of concrete roads in Maharashtra. The target for construction during 2020-21 is 2,500km, of which 1,394km have so far been completed.