Months after arbitrarily cancelling the much-needed Metro project near the Aarey area by claiming it as a ‘forest’ land, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra is keen on monetizing the Aarey Forest land, reports Times of India.
In a government resolution issued on Tuesday, the Maharashtra government appointed a five-member committee headed by Madhav Kale, director of planning and transport of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, to suggest how the government can monetize its land and raise funds for its various projects.
The committee has been asked to prepare a policy for implementing projects on a build-operate-transfer basis on land owned by the department. Aarey Colony is one of the largest land parcels in the state-owned by the dairy development and animal husbandry department.
The resolution stated that if the department develops its dilapidated dairies and hospitals in urban areas on a BOT model, that would not only get upgraded infrastructure free of cost but also can raise funds for other projects. The decision has been taken following a meeting held by Minister Sunil Kedar in February.
The flip-flop decision by the Maharashtra government to utilize forest land at Aarey for commercial purposes comes months after the Uddhav Thackeray-led government had cancelled the much-needed Metro shed project, sanctioned by the previous government, claiming that the project would degrade the forest land inside Aarey. Sena Prince Aaditya Thackeray had himself led the campaign against the Aarey Metro shed project.
However, in a U-turn, the Maharashtra government is now keen on utilising the same forest land to further their interests.
Shiv Sena and its activism over Aarey Forest
The Uddhav Thackeray-led govt, in a vindictive order, had declared the Aarey area where the metro car shed was planed as ‘forest land’ and had shifted the facility to government land in Kanjurmarg. The decision to shift the metro car shed came after several left-wing activists and Sena prince Aaditya Thackeray had expressed their disapproval for the construction of the metro shed at Aarey.
Even though the metro project will substantially improve the environment by removing lakhs of fossil fuel-guzzling vehicles from the roads, the project was opposed due to political reasons. The decision to shift the metro car shed from Aarey to Kanjurmarg will now increase the project’s cost by at least Rs 4,000 crore, which was estimated by a committee appointed by the current government. Further, the project will also be delayed by several years due to ongoing litigation and the condition of the new site.
U-turn of Shiv Sena on environmental activism
The ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which often advocates for eco-conservation by cancelling the metro project at Aarey on ‘concerns’ that trees are being cut, earlier took a U-turn by deciding to axe more than 300 trees for the construction of a metro line the elevated Metro-2A corridor between Dahisar and DN Nagar. Shiv Sena, especially under the leadership of Aaditya Thackeray, had been extremely vocal on the issues of environmental conversation, as the young Sena prince had opposed the BJP government’s decision of felling of trees at Aarey Milk colony to construct a Metro shed.
A month after extreme activism by Shiv Sena to impress its coalition parties – Congress and NCP, Sena had exposed its hypocrisy by ordering the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation to chop down 1,000 trees for a Bal Thackeray memorial in Priyadarshini Park. Interestingly, the environmental activists, NGOs and liberals who had hit the streets to protest against the then BJP government in the state for axing the trees at Aarey colony have now suspiciously chosen to remain silent. Perhaps, the activist seems to have come to a conclusion that it is a right step to axe the trees for the metro as the decision has been taken by the secular alliance of Shiv Sena, Congress and the NCP.