Thursday, May 30, 2024

The politics behind Aarey: The only losers are people of Mumbai

Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has slammed the decision of Maharashtra’s CM Uddhav Thackeray to shift the Metro-3 car shed from Aarey forest to Kanjumarg and tweeted that it would cost the state government an additional Rs 4,000 crores. Fadnavis termed it “ego” trip for his successor.

The metro depot was sanctioned in 2015 but had begun in 2019 and has now come back to zero. The Line-3 is important as it’s the first underground metro line in Mumbai. It’s a 33.5km long corridor meant to decongest traffic in Greater Mumbai. It could help save 2.5 lakh litres of fuel per day, that is about Rs 550 crores per year. It of course would help in reduction of emission by an incredible 6,800 tonnes per annum. It would help remove nearly 5 lakh vehicles from the roads of Mumbai.

As per Fadnavis, the proposed site of Kanjumarg is a marshy land and has a stay order on it by the Bombay High Court. It would take two years for the land to be stabilized. The shifting from Aarey, to go with the expenses involved, would cost the state exchequer Rs 4,000 crores, he claimed.

Earlier, Thackeray had announced the shifting of Aarey Metro car shed and claimed that his government had withdrawn cases registered against people who were protesting against the Aarey site. He had also asserted that the Rs 100 crores spent to-date on the site wouldn’t go to waste.

Incidentally, a four-member committee, appointed by Thackeray, had recommended the Aarey site and lifting of the stay on the construction work. It had also stated that no viable alternative had been found to Aarey forest. It had, interestingly, considered the marshy land at Kanjumarg and still preferred Aarey.

The protest had taken an ugly turn when Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) had allegedly begun felling trees in October 2019. Supreme Court’s intervention brought in  stay. Thackeray, by now chief minister, had assured no construction would take place till a decision was taken. He has recently announced 800 acres of Aarey land as a “forest”, withholding all constructions.

Mumbai collected a staggering Rs 2.36 lakh crores—some 36 per cent of the overall corporation tax collection, and Rs 1.04 lakh crore amounting for almost 25 per cent of total income tax collection in the country in the financial year 2018-2019. India’s growth depends on Mumbai. Yet its transport segment is broken. It has an archaic suburban rail system for an overwhelming population. It needs an urgent solution and a choice need be made, if left with no option, between trees and human lives.

Put it to ego fight or the fact that the chief minister’s son, Aditya Thackeray is a state environment minister and this could be a badge of honour on his chest, the truth is the harried people in Mumbai are no closer to finding a solution to their traffic woes and state exchequer, already depleted because of Coronavirus pandemic-induced situation, would face a further draw on its reserves.

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