“We gave up our land, our farms and our homes for the development of country. Shouldn’t we get the job first? Isn’t it our right? If you are not giving us money, compensation or a job then what is the use of your so-called development?,” asked 55-year-old Changuna Dabru Dhaki. Changuna, along with hundreds of women and men have been sitting in protest in front of the City and Industrial Development Corporation Limited (CIDCO) office in Navi Mumbai. Their protest is for compensation, a right which has been neglected by the authorities.
Navi Mumbai will have a new airport soon; it will come up in the Ulwe area. Around five thousand acres of land was taken from villagers in ten villages. A total of about 3,800 families have been displaced due to the project. They were promised land – triple of what was acquired – rent and also compensation. But the protesters allege that the CIDCO has cheated them.
Kiran Nene, who lost his house due the project, was also protesting at the CIDCO bhavan. “CIDCO hasn’t fulfilled its word. None of us got a job. We have been displaced for three years now but we only got rent for 18 months. CIDCO is behaving like a dictator,” said Nene.
The compensation package has multiple aspects. Rent received by the land owners or another plot of land or money from CIDCO, is an important one. Those affected by the were shifted to nearby townships in Ulwe sectors 1, 3, 4 etc. They pay Rs six thousand as monthly rent, Rs 72,000 a year. For the last three years the project-affected people have been living in rented houses. Simple mathematics would say they should have received Rs 2,16,000 each. However, the protesters allege that CIDCO gave them only Rs 1,60,000. No money as rent compensation has come in since.
“How will we survive? Now we don’t have a farm or a job. We are living in rented houses but the government is not even compensating us with the rent money promised to us,” said Rupali Kini.
There is another issue which was not even considered before the compensation package was announced. Fishermen, who live on the banks of Ulwe Creek, haven’t received anything as compensation. However, CIDCO is reclaiming the creek area as part of clearing land for development.
"The 2013 Act (The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013) had accepted the creek or the sea as fishermen’s property – areas they use for fishing. If the project affects their livelihood they are entitled to compensation. More than 200 families have been affected here as fishing was stopped. However, the CIDCO has not given any compensation to them,” said Rajaram Patil, leader of Navi Mumbai Airport Affected People's Struggle Committee.
The protest entered its 37th day on Monday. Women and men came to the CIDCO office early morning and are ready to sit there for the entire day. However, neither the CIDCO administration nor the state government has heard them out. “We are here everyday but these people are not ready to listen to us. It is similar to what the farmers in Delhi are facing, there is no difference,” said Changuna Dhaki.
The Navi Mumbai airport would add to the sheen of the city when it does come up. Those sitting in protest also want their city to have its share of the glory. They gave up their land and homes for it. But, if CIDCO failed to address their grievances or compensate them, this development would prove to be hollow.