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Navi Mumbai airport: ‘CIDCO cheated us… no one asked what we would eat’

With the Navi Mumbai international airport is expected to come up near Ulwe, residents from 10 villages in the area have left their homes and land, with the last village accepting CIDCO’s proposal in June.

For Saurav Mhatre (44), a fisherman who has been displaced from his village in Navi Mumbai for the upcoming airport project, the future looks bleak.

“We have been promised three times the land we had. But until we get it, how am I supposed to support my family?” asked Mhatre, one of the 100-odd fishermen who on Sunday put on hold their 11-day hungerstrike against CIDCO — the nodal government agency for the project — following assurances from the authorities.

With the Navi Mumbai international airport is expected to come up near Ulwe, residents from 10 villages in the area have left their homes and land, with the last village accepting CIDCO’s proposal in June. While the villagers have been promised rent until they get their land parcel, which would be thrice the size they held earlier, residents claimed that CIDCO has been neglecting their demands for schools and job opportunities.

“CIDCO has cheated us. Everyone promised a shelter over our heads, but no one asked what we would eat… The authorities should have seen to all these before throwing us out of our land,” said Kiran Keni, a local resident and leader.

The fishermen, who can’t take their boats out and fish in the waters around their village, have come up with a compensation chart. While the boat owners have demanded Rs 1.5 crore, the ones who fish out of locally made boats and small nets, have asked for Rs 90 lakh. “We have lost our entire livelihood… many of us don’t know what we can do from here on. Even the fisherwomen and vendors should be paid a compensation of Rs 77 lakh each,” Keni said.

Claiming that there are no jobs around, he added, “CIDCO is treating us like a joke. There is a training school for our children. But even after being trained, they don’t get jobs. The training centre is also a fraud. Instead of honing the skills of a mechanical engineer, it is advising him to start a papad manufacturing business.”

The protest, which began on August 1, was put on hold on Sunday. “We have been told that Prashant Thakur (Panvel BJP MLA and CIDCO chairman) will personally look into the matter. But if we don’t hear from them within a week, we will again start our protest,” Keni said.

When contacted, a CIDCO official said, “Till now, all decisions have been taken with the consent of the villagers. We have already sent them the money for rent and other purposes. We have also opened up training centres, especially for the project affected people. Now, their demands are increasing and we need to identify how to tackle such issues.”

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