A team of activists launched a demonstration on Sunday on September 4th, to oppose the construction of a Metro car shed in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony and raised slogans against the Maharashtra government’s decision to undertake the project. Around 100 persons 100 comprising Students, Dalits, Adivasis and activists of many NGOs, Political Parties. and social organisations.,participated. Heartening to witness involvement of people from so many walks of life.
Tribute was paid to Suddharta Ahanvne , who lost his life earlier this week in a motorcycle accident. He was one of the 29 people who were arrested for Save Aarey in 2019.
The protestors carried banners inscribed with slogans like “save Aarey forest”, and raised slogans vociferously on why it was imperative to challenge the granting of the area to builders.
They said Aarey is a forest constituting wildlife and adivasis (tribals) and appealed to prevent the extinguishing of the forest in the name of Metro car shed.
Environmentalists warned that not only leopards, but many other animals and birds face the threat of extinction. Such a project endangered livelihood in all spheres.
The construction of Metro car shed at Aarey, a forested land adjoining the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, was one of the first decisions reversed by the Eknath Shinde government formed on June 30 this year.
Last month, former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had regularly appealed to the new government “not to rip the belly of Mumbai ” by taking foward the construction of the car shed at Aarey.
After the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance seized power in 2019, the then CM Uddhav Thackeray enforced the decision to , shifting the Metro-3 car shed to a site in the Kanjurmarg eastern suburb, but it was scrapped in a legal dispute.
The Thackeray government had also declared Aarey as a reserved forest.
Recently, CM Shinde and Fadnavis in their first cabinet meeting reverted the Thackeray-led government’s decision.
On August 30, the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited undertook a trial run of the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro line-3 at Sariput Nagar in the Aarey Colony.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday claimed that 25 per cent of work of the Mumbai Metro Car shed. in Aarey Colony was completed after Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had given his approval. Speaking in the Legislative Council, Fadnavis also averred that no more trees will be cut for the car shed project, and said he was ready to apologise for the sake of Mumbai’s people if someone felt it was a crime to cut trees at night.
The state government controlled MMRDA got sanctioning to cut thousands of trees at Mumbai Aaryey forest for the proposed Mumbai metro 3 parking and car servicing shed .. that could easily have ben constructed elsewhere…The government claim that these people they’re displacing out are not tribals and that Aarey itself is ‘not a forest’ (since India has laws against both evicting tribals and cutting forests), they have declared these indigenous people as ‘encroachers’.. and forcibly shifted them into one room flats in nightmarish ‘slum rehabilitation’ buildings. though they have all their tribal documents as proof. The government also claim there is no forest here. In reality Aarey is classified by researchers as one of the world’s densest leopard habitats and has close to 500,000 trees, as per the last census.
During Fadnavis’s tenure as chief minister, his government’s action of cutting trees in the leafy Aarey Colony here at night after the court’s refusal for the car shed came in for criticism. Thackeray, after he became chief minister in 2019, shifted the Metro car shed site to Kanjur as environmental groups were opposed to tree felling for the project in Aarey area.
The movement has arisen in response to the State establishing control over public land in order to benefit a handful of capitalists and real estate barons. The ‘metro car shed’ in Aarey is a fare which paves the way for the state to pretend as if the project is in public interest when the real purpose is in fact to facilitate the builders and developers to come in through the backdoor. The lives of over 1100 species of plants and animals are being endangered to allow them to develop luxury apartments providing great aerial views of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, allowing the rich the pleasure of residing besides nature. Each such flat will fetch Crores of rupees justifying every tree felled and animal killed for the purpose. It is for the powerful or vested interests that this project s being undertaken in such a determined and organized manner, inspite of all government reports and public protests projecting it’s colossal harm.
It is important for such a movement to galvanize to extricate itself from the influence or nefarious designs of all Ruling class parties, who in essence toe the line of the powerful and mighty and to link it with the overall movement opposing the patronising of corporates by forces of globalisation.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who covers mass movements around the country.