In an unprecedented “attack”, Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday slammed the Indian Navy for creating obstacles in "development projects in Mumbai”, including opposing the plans for a floating jetty at Nariman Point.
Recently, the Bombay High Court declined permission to a private operator for building a jetty to launch seaplane services and a floatel since it did not get the green signal of the Indian Navy's Western Naval Command, ostensibly for security reasons.
“Actually, what does the navy have to do with Malabar Hill (in south Mumbai).. They should be guarding the borders of the country,” Gadkari remarked at a function where he laid the foundation stone for an international cruise terminal along with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Giving a piece of his mind to Indian Navy accusing it of “creating roadblocks” in development projects, he sought to know why everyone on the navy wants to live in south Mumbai.
“They have come to me seeking a plot of land... I will not give them even an inch of land, please don't come again,” Gadkari declared, in the presence of top naval, maritime and government officials, including Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Girish Luthra.
He said everybody wants to build quarters in south Mumbai's prime land and opined that only a few important, senior officials should live there.
“We respect you, but you should go to the Pakistan border... Land on the eastern seafront is being developed by the state government and Mumbai Port Trust which will be for the benefit of local citizens,” Gadkari added.
“We are the government, The Navy and Defence ministry are not the government,” he said.
Gadkari also accused the Indian Navy of making it “a habit” to stall development projects and asked how was the force concerned with Malabar Hill area which is a residential zone with Raj Bhavan and the Chief Minister's official residences.
The Shipping Minister urged the navy to resolve the issues, pointing out that he chairs a committee of delayed infrastructure projects which are cleared as soon as they are put up on the agenda.
Incidentally, south Mumbai's Colaba houses a large population of Indian Navy personnel, plus the headquarters of the WNC, residential quarters in Navy Nagar, and other pockets including Malad seafront.
The swank new international cruise terminal which will come up in the Mumbai port is slated to cost ₹300 crore, and will have all facilities like an airport with separate arrival and departure lounges and cater to around 700,000 tourists annually arriving or departing by cruise liners. It is expected to be ready by December 2019.
Fadnavis said that this international cruise terminal is part of the government's four-pronged policy to develop Mumbai on water, sky, ground and underground with water transport, new international airport, roads and flyovers, and the underground Mumbai Metro.
“This will make Mumbai a global cruise destination, create huge employment opportunities, increase the number of tourists and contribute to the GDP growth of Mumbai and Maharashtra,” he said.
Spread over 4.15 lakh sq. feet, the terminal will be equipped to host cruise ships with a capacity of around 5,000 passengers, with restaurants, shopping, recreated and leisure activities, which would also be accessible to the local population.
In 2016-2017, around 55 international cruise ships carrying over 60,000 passengers touched Mumbai, and this figure is now expected to grow 10 fold to around 700 vessels annually.
With Mumbai alone expected to handle nearly three-fourths of this estimated huge growth in cruise liner traffic, the government plans to develop other ports (besides Mumbai) like Goa, Mangaluru, Kochi and Chennai to cater to big and small international cruise ships.