Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said that developing a private airport for Pune is very much a serious option. “There are many private investors, who are more than willing to get involved. They can ensure a far quicker and efficient completion of the project,” he said. The state government has appointed the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC) as a special planning authority for the airport project. The latter had notified a 3,300 hectare land at Rajgurunagar,covering seven villages, for the project.However,the project remains stalled for years now in the wake of an intense agitation by farmers, who are opposed to the acquisition of land. During his recent visit to Pune, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had clearly said it was for the local leadership to tackle the land acquisition issues, after which the state will pursue the necessary clearances, including environmental approval, with the centre. The MADC has, meanwhile, forwarded a set of proposals recommending, among other things, the need to explore another site for the airport project, as the existing site is not suitable due to a combination of factors — like farmers opposition, presence of sizeable tracts of irrigated land and a massive ground-levelling effort that will be required as the site has hilly areas. All this has led to uncertainty, with questions being raised as to whether the project will ever come up at its existing proposed site. Requested to clear the air about the issue, Pawar, who represents Baramati, the home turf of his uncle and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, said, “An elaborate effort involving myself, civil aviation minister Praful Patel and the Maharatta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture and other stakeholders is on to work out a proposal for the private airport in view of the acquisition issues at Rajgurunagar.” “I have been saying for some time now that certain political elements have adopted a dual stance, thus stalling the acquisition process of the site proposed by the government, located along the left side of the Pune-Nashik highway. If the issues remain unresolved, the project can always be moved to the land available on the right side of the highway,”said Pawar. He said, “All we need is a minimum of 1,000 acre land to get started. If we manage to get 1,500 acre, nothing like it. The land to the right side of the highway will not require any significant ground-levelling effort, unlike the case with the Navi Mumbai project.” “Patel has promised all possible help to get the project cleared under the civil aviation ministry’s single-window clearance policy for Greenfield airport projects. Securing environmental clearance will not be an issue,” he added. Pawar cited the example of the New Delhi airport which was developed by a private firm in much less time.“This can also be the case with the airport for Pune,” he said.