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'Villagers allowing us to survey their houses, land is an encouraging sign'

She completed two months as the joint managing director of CIDCO on July 22 and probably took up the most daunting task of her career: wining over trust of the Project Affected People (PAP) in Navi Mumbai, whose lands would be acquired for the ambitious Navi Mumbai International Airport project. Richa Pinto spoke to IAS officer V Radha to understand her experience of interacting with the PAP and her efforts in building confidence between them and CIDCO. Radha was also asked point-blank whether the airport project would ever see the light of the day and this is what she had to say:

V Radha
A glimmer of hope: V Radha interacts with the villagers of Pargaon, where she was invited by the local mahila mandal to attend a function

You were recently invited to Pargaon by the local mahila mandal. How was the experience?
I was invited to attend a programme where I decided to take the opportunity to inform the villagers about CIDCO’s plans and explain to them certain facts about the proposed airport and its benefits. I didn’t want to force my views on them, so I told them not to trust me as I’m an IAS officer and would be vacating the seat whenever the order comes. I told them that it was their land and it was essential for them to weigh the pros and cons of the project before they reached any conclusion.

Did the three-hour-long, non-stop interaction with the villagers help break the ice?
The villagers had several doubts and I tried to clear them to the best of my ability. I told them not to hand over their lands until they were fully convinced. In fact, they bombarded me with so many questions that it reminded me of the time when I was being interviewed for the IAS (laughs). I wanted to ensure them that they would be rehabilitated for better. Right from the women of the village to the youth, I tried involving everyone in the discussion. It was simple, I told them that lands would be acquired only after the compensations were given.

The survey of villages stalled earlier has finally begun. What do have you to say about it?
This may be a small beginning, but I can see that the trust is being built. Villagers allowing us to survey their houses and lands is an encouraging sign that they believe us.

International Airport Navi Mumbai

Will the Navi Mumbai international airport be a reality?
My gut feeling says it will. Things are moving on the ground level and everything is being put down in black and white. When people see you walk the talk, they tend to believe you.

How has your stint been as the joint MD of CIDCO?
It’s been really nice. Our MD Sanjay Bhatia has been extremely cooperative, besides having brought in a lot of transparency into the functioning of the development body. I am looking forward to it.  

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