Wondering why all Navy officials need to stay in posh South Mumbai, Ports minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday that “not an inch” of land would be given to Navy to build flats or quarters in the area.
“Actually, Navy is needed at the borders from where terrorists sneak in. Why does everyone (in the Navy) want to stay in South Mumbai? They (Navy) had come to me, asking for a plot (of land). I will not give even an inch of land. Please don’t come to me again,” Gadkari said. He made the remarks at a public event here in presence of Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Girish Luthra.
Gadkari’s public displeasure comes in the backdrop of the Navy declining permission for building a floating jetty at Malabar Hill in south Mumbai, where a floating hotel and seaplane service are planned. “Everyone wants to build quarters and flats on south Mumbai’s prime land. We do respect you (Navy), but you should go to the Pakistan border and do patrolling,” Gadkari said.
A few important and senior officials can stay in Mumbai, Gadkari said, adding that land on the eastern seafront being jointly developed by the state-run Mumbai Port Trust and the Maharashtra government, would be utilised only for the benefit of local citizens.
South Mumbai is home to a sizeable presence of the Navy and houses the headquarters of the Western Naval Command, as well as the naval residential quarters at Navy Nagar in Colaba in south Mumbai.
Berths for naval ships are close to the Port Trust assets used by merchant ships. Over time, a lot of cargo handling has moved out of the Mumbai Port, one of the oldest ports in the country. “I heard that you (Navy) gave a stay to the floating jetty plan at Malabar Hill, despite it getting the high court’s nod,” Gadkari said.
Claiming that stopping such developmental work has become a habit, Gadkari wondered what has the Navy got to do with the Malabar Hill area which is primarily a private residential zone also having official residences of Maharashtra governor and chief minister. “Where is the Navy at Malabar Hill? There is no Navy at Malabar Hill and the Navy has nothing to do in the area,” Gadkari said and invited the Navy for talks to resolve the issue.
Gadkari said he chairs a committee for stalled infrastructure projects, adding that projects are cleared “as soon as they come on the agenda”. “We are the government. The Navy and the Defence Ministry are not the government,” Gadkari said.