On Thursday, thousands of people from Raigad, Thane and Palghar districts of Maharashtra staged a protest in the CBD Belapur area. Heavy security was deployed by the Navi Mumbai Police and social distancing norms went for a toss as the agitators demanded that the under-construction airport be named after the late D B Patil. Against this backdrop, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri recently took to Twitter with a modified 'Santa-Banta' joke.
Sharing a 2019 tweet by Bollywood singer and actor Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, he solemnly revealed that a petition to name the new airport 'Bantacruz' (because the Mumbai airport is often dubbed Santacruz airport) was yet to be filed with the Aviation Ministry.
"The Ministry of Civil Aviation receives many requests for naming and renaming of existing and under construction airports. To lighten the mood a bit, I want to inform my friend Banta that his formal proposal has not yet been received by us!" he tweeted.
Visuals from the agitation on Thursday showed around 10,000 outraged individuals shouting slogans against the state-run City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), threatening to stop construction if their demands were not met by August 15. The protestors are vehemently against the decision to name name the airport after late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
While the organizers had earlier given a call to "gherao" (besiege) the CIDCO Bhavan at CBD Belapur township in Navi Mumbai, the protesters were stopped a kilometre away. The police had deployed more than 4,000 personnel, 500 officers and Reserve Police Force units on the roads leading to the CIDCO office. While the protest went off peacefully, Deputy Commissioner of Police Shivraj Patil said that the organizers would be booked for putting the event together without police permission.
(With inputs from agencies)