Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said there is a need to decongest the financial capital as the densely populated city is facing "disastrous consequences", referring to mounting coronavirus cases.
Gadkari, the road transport minister, also offered to allocate plots for Dharavi's tanneries along the upcoming Mumbai-Delhi express highway.
In comments that come amid reports that many including migrants battling hunger due to the pandemic, Gadkari also said that food warehouses are overflowing and grains are rotting as well.
It can be noted that the financial capital is the most affected in terms of number of virus cases, accounting for over a fifth of the overall COVID-19 infections in the country.
At present, there are reports of the medical facilities being close to being overwhelmed, even as the number of patients continues rising fast in some localities like the Dharavi slum, which alone has reported over 1,600 cases.
"There is a need to decongest Mumbai, look at the disastrous consequences that we are facing. The population is very dense, which leads to a lot of problems," Gadkari said speaking at a webinar organised by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank Federation.
Gadkari, who handles the MSME portfolio as well, said there are 1.5 lakh people in Dharavi who work exclusively in the tanneries or leather trade and offered them space next to the upcoming Mumbai-New Delhi Expressway being executed by the central government.
Stressing that decentralisation and decongesting is the need of the hour, he said the Maharashtra government should approach the Centre for having a leather works cluster along the expressway within the state.
Moving the cluster out of Dharavi can help improve the quality of life of the people, Gadkari said, assuring amenities like cement roads, solar power, water recycling and affordable housing in the new location.
Gadkari said his ministry will take the tab of acquiring the land and the same can be handed over to an agency which will be developing the project against a profit motive.
Meanwhile, Gadkari also said that there are sufficient stocks of rice and wheat to suffice for three years and also added that the additional winter crop procurement will create a challenge of storage as the facilities are already overflowing.
Terming the storage as a "challenge", he said a lot of the food stuff has started rotting as well.
It can be noted that a lot of developmental economists have been pitching for direct transfer of foodgrains to the poor to ensure that the population does not slip into hunger amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to disastrous economic consequences. Gadkari did not make any reference to the ongoing crisis in his comments.
He advocated usage of the excess foodgrains for producing ethanol, which is blended with petrol and added that doing so will help reduce the fuel import bill for the country.
Citing reports he has received, Gadkari said that over 28 lakh tonnes of rice has been procured in Gadchiroli, one of the most backward and naxal-affected districts, and added that Maharashtra can deploy rice and corn for the ethanol production.
For the cooperative banking sector, which has been alleging about plans by policymakers to reduce its importance following the emergence of scams like the one at PMC Bank,Gadkari seemed to advise a shift to private ownership, saying such banks can turn private while retaining the spirit of the cooperative sector ethos.
The MP from Nagpur also said that he has written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to ensure that the loans to small businesses by the over 1,500 cooperative banks in the country are also covered under the Rs 3 lakh crore credit guarantee scheme announced as part of the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus.
He said that as per the Finance Ministry notification, only scheduled commercial banks are allowed the benefit of the scheme and cooperatives need to be added.
Gadkari also assured the federation that he will take forward its request for the transfer of the regulation of the sector to exclusively under the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), and not under a dual structure of the RBI and state governments at present.
Giving details of the progress of the expressway project, Gadkari said 32 of the 62 packages have been fully awarded and land acquisition has been completed fully. The government has saved Rs 16,000 crore because of the project alignment, he said, explaining that the land prices in the backward areas through which it passes are a tenth of what they would be in the developed parts like Surat-Vadodara belt.
Gadkari also said that he plans to ask Mother Dairy to put up a large plant to manufacture 'Goras Paak' biscuits out of pure cow milk and cow ghee in order and export the products.
The minister said he has addressed over 110 meetings through the video mode in the last month which helped him reach over 14 crore people, and added that he will be moving to New Delhi on June 1.