BOMBAY High Court, on Friday, October 4, 2019 dismissed the multiple petitions against Aarey Car-shed and also imposed cost of 50,000 on one petitioner, dealing a crushing blow to Aarey Bachao Campaign.

ABI (abinet.org) has called out these pseudo activists since day one of their staged protests and has often pointed out the hypocrisy surrounding their campaign. We have highlighted how this campaign is selective, mischievous and planned in a way that details the Development and Progress of Mumbai City. 

There is no question that common man who uses Mumbai’s Public Transportation and local trains to get around is overwhelmingly supporting the Metro project. Statistics show that on an average, ten people die every day in Mumbai’s suburban train network due to sheer overcrowding. The roads are no better either. Increasing number of vehicles has meant that BEST buses suffer from increased traffic and take a long time to get from point A to point B, often making the journey unviable and forcing people to take out private vehicles or use expensive cabs and autos. Population explosion, demographic changes and unplanned development are also responsible for Mumbai’s crumbling infrastructure and public transportation network.

In such a scenario, there is no question that the planned Metro Network is essential and much needed to assuage some of the problems facing Mumbai Public Transport network. No wonder Metro has received widespread support from the common man as he believes it will make his commute better and safer. One needs to only look at the already commissioned Versova – Andheri – Ghatkopar Metro line to see how popular it has become and how it has drastically reduced the commute time from Versova to Ghatkopar.

It is, therefore, surprising that a bunch of so-called activists are trying to hijack the planned metro network and derail Mumbai’s Development. The bone of contention for them is simply ridiculous. The Metro 3 Network requires 33 Hectares at Aarey Colony to build a car shed that would serve as a yard and shed for Metro 3 Line. The Car-shed involves cutting down of roughly 2800 trees. MMRCL, the agency behind the Metro 3 has claimed that they have tried to find alternative sites for this, but no other site is technically or financially viable, and hence this Aarey Colony site has been zeroed on. They have claimed that they will only be disrupting bare minimum number of trees and will also transplant as many trees as they can. It is also undisputed that Pollution reduced from the metro line will be much more beneficial in the long run, as it will reduce the number of vehicles on the road and hence reduce Carbon footprint drastically.

This proposal has not gone down well with these Aarey Bachao Campaigners. Despite MMRCL following all the rules and procedures in shortlisting the Aarey Colony site as perfect for the proposed car shed, these activists have alleged irregularities, deficiencies and to garner popular public support, they have also used media to emotionally connect with the common man in the name of saving 2800 trees. They have even falsely claimed that Aarey is a forest. A big lie – Aarey is a colony, and within it contains Film City that has systematically cut trees to expand, many times often without permission and procedure. The very celebrities who are trying to mislead the public are eerily silent about Film City. After all why protest when it affects your own bread and butter. 

These activists include journalists, film stars and celebrities who are clinging on to anything they can get to derail the metro project and stall Mumbai’s development. The celebrities in question are B-Grade celebrities whose careers are either stalled or never took off and are therefore supporting these Aarey Bachao Activists just to stay in limelight and public memory. None of these celebrities have bothered to question the presence of Film City on what they themselves call, a forest. 

The common man is not against trees or the forest. In fact, it pains everyone that trees have to be cut. But logic and common sense say that the long term benefits of the Metro project outweigh the chopping of 2800 odd trees. As a matter of fact, MMRCL has already planted over 20000 trees in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is six times more than the number of trees proposed to be cut. The Metro line is the need of the hour and these protestors are systematically working in tandem to derail that.

One cannot help but question the motives of these protestors. Clearly, it is just not about the trees. As mentioned earlier, Film City has over the years chopped thousands and thousands of trees without any opposition or permissions whatsoever. There is a housing colony called Royal Palms within the Aarey ‘Forest’ that promises views of lush greenery. Many Aarey Bachao Activists encourage the builders by staying in that colony. Not a word of protest when thousands of trees were cut to build the Royal Palms project. 

Evidently,  the protests are not spontaneous. They are well Co-ordinated and funded. One must look at where this funding is coming from. A common man can barely make ends meet. He cannot support such expensive protests or court petitions. There is a clear ulterior hand behind the protest, and those who are funding it must be investigated and their agendas need to be looked into.  The brainchild behind the protests, Stalin, had in 2016 had proposed that the metro line be extended to the Royal Palms Residential Colony, right in the centre of Aarey Colony. The Planners rejected that proposal. Now, the same person is suddenly spearheading the protests against the Metro Line and the car-shed. 

These activists claim that they are not against Metro, but they are against the car shed at Aarey that involves chopping down the trees. However, they have failed to come up with an alternative site or solution that is both technically and financially viable. They claim that they are not against progress, but by filing multiple, duplicate cases in a number of courts and tribunals, they are actually derailing and delaying the project. A single day of delay costs crores and crores of public money which makes Metro more expensive for the common man. Further, these activists come to protests sites in their gas-guzzling SUV’s, they tweet from the comfort of their Air conditioned offices and homes and have never lived or commuted like a common man. 10 lives are lost every day due to overcrowding in local trains and metro plans to address that. But by protesting and delaying that project, these activists are saying that a few trees are more important than human lives. 

However, even if we assumed for a minute that all the arguments laid down by these so-called fake activists are correct, even then, the Bombay High Court does not agree with them and has rightly dismissed all their petitions. However, these activists think they are above the law. When the tree authority tried to chop the trees, these activists still protested and prevented public officials from discharging their duty. Do they think they can get away with breaking the law in the name of the protests? Are they above the law? Recently few of these activists abused a lady who was in support of the Metro project. Often the behaviour of the activists on social media is worse than the trolls. 

They deeply need to introspect. No one should be above the law. In a democracy, courts are sacred and one simply cannot show dissent against the courts in a violent manner. But then again, the way these activists have behaved so far during protests is utterly shameful. Hope they see the light of the day and protest legally without use of violence and stop misleading the people with fake narratives and stories. Metro is an essential project in public interest, and we have to hope that the project is completed promptly.

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