Maharashtra gives MSRDC fresh life, thanks to new mega projects

The government’s move will pacify Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde who heads the entity, as MSRDC had become almost defunct over the past six years with no projects in the pipeline

After spending an unfruitful 11 months in government, Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has some work to do in his Mantralaya department. A Cabinet ministers’ group has appointed the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) as an implementing and nodal agency for eight infrastructure projects worth Rs 53,701 crore.

Of these projects, two worth R6,000 crore were given the final approval on Monday by the state’s infrastructure committee, which is headed by CM Devendra Fadnavis. The remaining projects are in the planning stage and will be implemented in a phased manner by MSRDC in collaboration with state and Central agencies.

The development is important for MSRDC because it had almost become defunct in the past six years. With no big projects coming its way, the respective MSRDC ministers in the Congress-NCP regime, and now in the BJP-Sena regime (Shinde) were helpless. In the Congress and NCP government, the former did not want the NCP-controlled MSRDC to implement infrastructure projects for political reasons.

Monday’s development is also seen as a move to enhance rapprochement between the BJP and Sena, who were locked in a bitter rivalry in the local self-government elections in Kalyan-Dombivli and Kolhapur. The two have been critical of each other, with the Sena trying to gain advantage after the BJP’s loss in Bihar.

Also, the BJP-led government is planning to expand the state Cabinet in which the Sena expects good portfolios. The Sena has been complaining that it was not given departments that could help it reach out to the masses. The improved relations between the two also mean that they will have a smooth sailing in the legislative council polls for eight seats in December.

The new projects given to MSRDC are expected to serve the Sena’s very purpose, notwithstanding the fact that CM Fadnavis will be holding the key to their final approvals and scrutiny of complaints and irregularities, if any. Sources said that the BJP should hope for some relief from the erring Sena in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) as most of these projects are located in the Sena’s influence area.

In the recent past, an upset Shinde has been giving a miss to the CM’s official programmes as a mark of protest. In the past, MSRDC had conceived and implemented mega infra schemes like the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Nitin Gadkari, who was Public Works Minister in the first BJP-Sena government, had formed this corporation to construct the E-way.

However, MSRDC ran into trouble when the Congress and NCP came to power. Successive Congress CMs preferred the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) over MSRDC for getting major projects built. Meanwhile, MSRDC also courted many controversies in toll collection issues and tenders. Subsequently, some important projects like the trans-harbour link were transferred from MSRDC to MMRDA.

There was a phase when no Congress CM would approve MSRDC proposals either in the infrastructure panel meetings or Cabinet meetings. The trend of sidelining MSRDC continued even in the BJP-led government which came to power last October.

Sena’s Shinde, who was opposition leader in the Assembly before his party joined the government last December, was given the charge of this unwanted public undertaking, which continues to manage the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, some roads and a few flyovers. Shinde has been coming up with several ideas for the BJP’s approval, to no avail.

Some months ago, Shinde was asked to collaborate with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in the ambitious Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communications Highway (the proposal came up for official approval on Monday).

This mega project will alone cost Rs 40,000 crore. But since the Nitin Gadkari-controlled NHAI is expected to call the shots in this project, Shinde wanted some independent projects to handle.

New projects
>> Augmentation of Mumbai-Pune E-way with 2 tunnels, 2 viaducts, security enhancement: Rs 5,170 crore
>> 4 km six-lane elevated road off Thane-Ghodbunder Road: Rs 784 crore
>> ***MSRDC appointed nodal and executing agency
>> Third creek bridge on the Sion-Panvel highway: Rs 777 crore
>> Tikujiniwadi-Borivli 11 km tunnel: Rs 3,000 crore
>> Bhiwandi-Kalyan-Shil Phata viaduct: Rs 2,600 crore
>> Wakan-Pali-Khopoli 4-laning: Rs 500 crore
>> 27 Rail Over Bridges in Vidarbha: Rs 870 crore
>> Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communications Highway: Rs 40,000 crore

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