Forest nod: New city air­port faces de­lay End is near for surge fares as fresh law will cover Ola, Uber

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Sau­rabh Katkur­war sau­rabh.katkur­war@hin­dus­tan­ Moushumi Das Gupta moushumi.gupta@hin­dus­tan­

The Navi Mum­bai In­ter­na­tional Air­port (NMIA) project has hit a road­block again as the forest ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee (FAC) of min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment and forest (MoEF) has de­ferred its de­ci­sion on the stage-II forest clear­ance ow­ing to dis­crep­an­cies in the com­pen­satory af­foresta­tion (CA) scheme.

This ef­fec­tively means the project, which was sup­posed to take off in Septem­ber, will get de­layed.

How­ever, V Radha, joint man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of City and In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (Cidco), said at­tempts will be made to en­sure the clear­ance is re­ceived soon for work to com­mence on time.

Cidco has al­ready ap­pointed con­trac­tors for pre-de­vel­op­ment work, which in­cludes land lev­el­ling, hill cut­ting, diver­sion of high-ten­sion wires and diver­sion of a river. It is ex­pected to ap­point a de­vel­oper for the air­port ter­mi­nal work early next year.

Af­ter a two-decade-long wait, which saw sev­eral de­lays to get clear­ances and for the farm­ers — whose land has been ac­quired — to come on board, Cidco of­fi­cials were con­fi­dent of start­ing pre-de­vel­op­ment work in Septem­ber.

A few weeks ago, Cidco had made a pre­sen­ta­tion to the FAC re­gard­ing the CA for use of 250 ha forest land, in­clud­ing man­groves, for air­port de­vel­op­ment. Cidco and the state forest depart­ment had iden­ti­fied ar­eas in Sud­ha­gad and Alibaug in Raigad for af­foresta­tion and Pan­vel for man­groves plan­ta­tion.

Taxi ag­gre­ga­tors such as Uber and Ola may no longer be able to raise fares ar­bi­trar­ily in times of higher de­mand.

The cab­i­net on Wed­nes­day agreed to bring all app-based tax­i­hail­ing ser­vices un­der the reg­u­la­tory net­work that will al­low state gov­ern­ments to fix a fare cap and check ar­bi­trary charg­ing, the big­gest cus­tomer grouse. Vi­o­la­tors face a fine of up to Rs2 lakh.

“Once there is a fare cap, ag­gre­ga­tors will have to keep the surge pric­ing within the range that has been fixed,” a road min­istry of­fi­cial said.

Taxi ag­gre­ga­tors have been op­er­at­ing in a grey area as the mo­tor ve­hi­cles act, framed in 1988, doesn’t cover ride-shar­ing ser­vices, al­low­ing them to run with­out li­cences.

The min­istry is look­ing to plug this hole and is re­work­ing the li­cens­ing norms. It has de­cided to in­tro­duce a new cat­e­gory to cover ag­gre­ga­tors. Un­der the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle (Amend­ment) Bill, 2016, an “ag­gre­ga­tor” has been de­fined as “a dig­i­tal in­ter­me­di­ary or mar­ket­place for a pas­sen­ger to con­nect with a driver for the pur­pose of trans­porta­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to rough es­ti­mates, ag­gre­ga­tor ser­vice ac­count for five per­cent of the Rs59,720 crore taxi busi­ness in In­dia.

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