When officials sit meekly before angry farmers


It seems the government machinery which is so arrogant towards common people, listens only to voices of aggression. The officialdom sat meekly, almost scared yesterday on the dais in front of a large gathering of Aagri community farmers, men and women, during a public hearing on Metro 9 railway line.

Scared indeed because there were two police officers on the dais to keep the people under control in the hall of Nagar Bhavan of Bhayandar municipal corporation on the outskirts of Mumbai.

The farmers were clearly angry over a move to acquire their homes and farms, a robbery of their livelihood.

Officials of MMRDA Mumbai Metropolitan region development authority tried to explain the environmental impact of the Metro line, the technical aspects, the alleged benefits and so on but the audience was in no mood to listen to this stuff which they found so irrelevant when they faced an assault on their very survival.

Before the meeting began each participant was given a slip with a number written on it. When someone wanted to ask a question, he or she was asked to reveal the number for identification

None of these people cared one bit for this and gave their mind to the officials. A revenue official in charge of land acquisition faced a particularly rough time. People were also angry that they were being asked to report their grievances to the Thane district office which is far away.

The case of the farmers was also put forcefully by a retired professor of chemical engineering Suresh Ranade. What right do you have to acquire land for the Metro car shed when you have not finalised the site ? he asked and they had little to offer in terms of an explanation. He was warmly applauded by the land holders.

A villager bluntly told the officials that people here may be less educated but they understand issues better.

No decision can be taken from above and imposed on a village, the voice of the gram panchayat has to be respected, heard. Clearly, the government machinery does not care a damn for the Constitutional amendment on decentralisation, the autonomy, rights of common people.

Metro Line 9 is an extension of the Red Line from Andheri to the Sahar airport CSMIA and Dahisar to Mira Road. This line will be unique from the other metro lines because it will run on a double-decker bridge. There will be a flyover on the first deck and the metro will run on the second deck. The flyover will start near the proposed Shivaji Chowk (Mira Road) metro station and will end in Bhayander (West) via Mira Bhayander Road. It shall provide interconnectivity among the Western Express Highway, the Western suburban railway Line, sources claim.

But the project is also apparently driven mainly by the real estate developer lobby out to oust farmers from their farms, grab the land for high rises for the rich.

Mumbai residents have been far too tolerant all these last few years of the continuous assault on their peace, their transport, their travel bill has been shooting up because of traffic delays. Does MMRDA think that one silly , ridiculous line written all over the metropolis on Metro work sites about transforming Mumbai for a better life can compensate citizens for the misery it has imposed.

The whole exercise needs to be questioned because it has been imposed first by ignoring public transport all these years for the benefit of the automobile lobby and when thins became too difficult they are inflicting a very costly project to get out of the mess totally ignoring low cost solutions.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on public transport

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