Hours after taking oath, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis has announced that the construction of metro car shed will be shifted back to Aarey, sparking controversy.
After the political coup in Maharashtra, the newly sworn in Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have directed Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni that the controversial Metro car shed will be shifted back to Mumbai's Aarey Colony. It is a direct reversal of the Thackeray government’s order which had directed to shift the project to a different location after widespread protests.
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CM Shinde has asked Kumbhakoni to submit its order in the court that the car shed will be built where it was promised in 2019 under the BJP-led government. The decision was taken in the very first cabinet meeting.
Officials in the urban development department have said that the matter is currently in the court and the next hearing will be held within 15 days.
What is the controversy?
The Aarey Colony in the Goregaon region is often called the ‘city’s lungs’. It spans over 13,000 hectare of land and is home to thousands of tribals and Adivasi people, who live in 27 hamlets. Some of its area is part of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is home to a range of flora and fauna.
The Aarey metro shed tussle began in 2014. The location was identified for the construction of a metro car shed on 1,800 plus acre of green land. The shed was a part of the 33.5-km underground Metro 3 project connecting Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ. The location is believed to be the home to 290 species wild of flora and fauna, surrounded on many sides by concrete structures.
On October 4, 2019, the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions challenging the decision to cut trees at Aarey. Within hours of the court’s decision, about 2,135 trees were axed.
This led widespread protest by activists and Aarey locals came out on the streets protesting under the ‘Save Aarey’ banner. The then BJP-led government invoked Section 144 in Aarey and deployed about 500 policemen. About 29 protesters were arrested but were released on bail following the Supreme Court’s order. The project work was halted as a long drawn court battle ensued.
After the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress coalition, came to power in Maharashtra, the then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that the car shed would move out of Aarey to Kanjurmarg, an eastern suburb.
This reversed the decision of the former government and Thackeray said that the car-shed will be relocated to a plot of government land for which the government will incur no extra cost. This claim was however heavily contested, leading to further controversy.
The Thackeray government further said that it had decided to expand the reserve forest in Aarey from 600 acre to 800 acre. They also withdrew the criminal cases registered against the 29 protesters arrested in October 2019.
Controversy regarding the shifting of location
On June 6, 2022, the Centre had submitted an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, asserting its ownership and title over a land in Mumbai's Kanjurmarg area, where the then Maharashtra government had proposed to construct a Metro car shed. The Centre claimed that a decree in the name of a private firm with respect to the land was obtained fraudulently.
Later, the Bombay High Court’s Justice AK Menon noted that the court in October 2020 was persuaded to pass the order in favour of the private firm through suppression of facts and the decree was indeed obtained fraudulently, reported Live Mint. The project has been stuck since then as the legal court proceedings are ongoing.
Hours after taking oath, Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis overturned the previous government’s decision to move the Metro 3 shed from Mumbai’s Aarey.
Fadnavis said that 25 percent of the work for the metro car shed has already been completed in Aarey and 75 per cent of the work can be done immediately whereas the construction will take years if done at the other proposed location.
This has again sparked controversy with activists and political leaders opposing the decision.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)