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People are saying that the government is too powerful and there is no point in protesting.

India continues to be a democracy; the right to protest is a fundamental right. A patriot must protect the country from the acts of the government, the government is not always right. The excuse given is that the people falling off the train and dying. If even one person dies every day, the government should take immediate action, why wait for five years? The arguments that are given are completely baseless, meaningless and utter rubbish. We have so many solutions, what we are saying that you talk to us. We will give our inputs, we have to contribute. Citizens have to participate in governance. When the government changed in the center and the state, they said that minimum government and maximum governance. But what we see today is maximum government and minimum governance. The government has bulldozed the environment, bulldozed the citizen’s rights, their wishes and priorities and it has imposed their will. And it is a sad state of affairs.

The MMRCL says that why not sacrifice a small part of Aarey so that the car shed can be made?

The tiny part of Aarey happens to be in the catchment area of the MIthi river. The supreme court has taken the issue of the Mithi river very seriously and the government has also been saying that the rivers are sacred and they should be protected. This is not the way a river is protected. I remember the story of Eklavya where the teacher asked him to give up his thumb and everything will be okay. It’s not a question of giving up thirty hectares, It’s about destroying needlessly. And is the government giving any assurance that the rest of Aarey will be protected. No, they have said very clearly in their plans that they want to create another BKC growth sector in Aarey which people resisted. If you allow one entry, be rest assured that the entire place will be bulldozed. And this is the plan of the government, they have deliberately shifted focus from the conservation of Aarey to a metro car shed battle and tried to create public opinion against the cause. The fact remains that Aarey is a green lung that has five lakh trees in it, it has wildlife in it, it gives you pure air and it’s your guarantee to good health. And if you don’t value breathable air then your priorities are lopsided.

What’s next, what can the people do?

People need to raise their voices, people need to right to the government, at least online, talk about them. It’s your city, your forest, your air that you are selling out and you are destroying needlessly. Needlessly is a word that I keep emphasizing because I coming again and saying that there is seven other options for this metro car shed, we want the metro but this shed is something that can easily be relocated and spare those tree, spare that forest. For god’s sake, it gives us good air. It’s in the catchment area of the Mithi river.If you raise the ground level there, the city will flood. Don’t create a mess, that’s all we are saying.

What has been the experience of complaining against the current construction in Aarey right now in the Aarey police station?

I don’t know if I should be saying this on camera but I will tell you this- you ask anyone that if you carry a tempo of debris and try to unload it anywhere in the city, immediately you will find a cop coming to ask you what it is and the debris will be dumped and the cop will go on his own way. Now you have a situation in Aarey where daily hundred trucks of debris is coming in, clandestinely, and is being dumped in the grass land. Ideally, the cop should have called up the collector, they have not done that. Let’s give them a benefit of the doubt; they have taken a stand that unless a statutory body complains to us we cannot do anything which is correct. But nothing stops the cops from taking cognizance of the citizen’s complaint and calling it a statutory body and saying that citizens have come to the police station and lodged a complaint against so and so agencies. Please clarify your stand, that’s all we are asking. Let all the concerned bodies like the MCGN, MPCD, the collectors office, let them all come on record say that whatever Is happening is legal and that settles the issue. But the police have been flexing their muscles and intimidating citizens, threatening them to slap them with cases. They know that the society get irritated easily, people don’t want to go into the police station. The police have shown so much hostility for example, the gathering was for only hundred and fifty people and they were three hundred police men there. It is bordering on intimidation.

What can be done legally when the government agencies break the law?

When government agencies break the law, all that a peace-loving citizen can do is go to court or protest and hope that we get a proper hearing and the matter is heard and the justice is delivered at the end. And secondly, by protesting we are hoping that the saner voices in the government will wake up and understand that this is a matter of great concern and there is something fundamentally wrong with the way things have been executed at the ground.

The MMRCL writes on its website “No real estate development has been proposed at Aarey”

It has not been proposed means it is not finalized, If it has not been proposed then why has the government asked for additional land so that you can raise money through real estate development. Why are you lying against the documents? Why should people take your word against the government documents? They have said it in black and white that we want land so that we can sell it.

Tell us more about the three hectare plot

Subsequent to the thirty hectare plot that is released for the metro shed, a three hectare plot was given. We were wondering about that, when we investigated we found out that there was a casting yard to be made. So if there is a thirty hectare plot, why is there a casting yard needed? So when we dug out the documents we found out that it is written that three hectares in addition to the thirty hectares must be handed over to the MMRCL so that it can be exploited for real estate and generate money for the property. It is written in black and white. These documents can be given to you, you can show it to the viewers. The same MMRCL came to the NGT and said that if you don’t give us the three hectare plot the entire project will come to a standstill. C’mon how much will you lie? Your digging is yet to commence, to dig thirty three kilometers it will take three to four years. You will need these facilities four years down the line. The extreme haste shown to dumb the debris and create land from the forest is a clear indicator of the real purpose of the scam. Once you destroy this land, flatten it and dumb the debris, after four years people forget. Mumbai’s memory is very short, four years later people will give up, go about their own lives and slowly you will find a small building coming up saying that it a staff colony for metro and then you will see buildings are coming up sround it. None of us have the resources or money or time to fight this mafia, we can’t do it.

What document is this?

This is a detailed project report, anyone can pick it up. Its written in black and white there.

So when we say that this is an eighteen thousand crore scam, critics say where is the proof?

The proof of the pie is in the pudding. For the three hectare land, the FSI comes up to eighteen thousand crore. If we are wrong then the MMRCL and the government should show why the other plots were rejected. The insistence on Aarey is a clear pointer that this is the case. Their own documents say that we are entering Aarey because there is scope of development

What exactly is this nexus you are proposing between government, real estate and MMRCL ? Is this a very tangible nexus or is it very difficult to quantify?

See it’s like, we all know corruption exists, nobody gives you a free lunch. Corruption is in-build into the system and the best way to generate illegal money is to announce fancy products because in that there is a scope for every player to make money. Like I told you, what was the need for underground metro at thirty thousand crores when the same can be done at five thousand or six thousand crores overhead? That’s the fundamental question. The issue is that, How is black money generated? When you get a contract with a government machinery, when you speak to them they will tell you that you have to pay the beaurocrats before hand and only then will the contracts be released. We do not know how it is done but it is evident. Corruption is like the air, you cannot see it but you know it exists.

So what is the real reason why everybody is after Aarey? What is in Aarey that makes the MMRCL, MMRDA, the chief minister ignore four options, whatever is available to them?

The metro shed, we are not accepting it, let us say for a moment that okay, the metro shed is a necessity in Aarey but why the station? They have added a railway station inside Aarey, the place where they live there are hardly any residents there. There are no human inhabitations nearby. So why a station there? The reason being that once you construct a station in that area, the real estate value of that FSI also goes up. You understand? The value-for example the FSI of Daravi would be much lesser, the cost of it would be much lesser. Sooner or later, because of the station, you will find that constructions have sprouted up in the nearby vicinity. I ask anyone who has the time to find out what is the price which is going on along JVLR in the last two years after the metro project was announced in this area. You will find that there is a dramatic increase in the price. And this is a hiking up prices for regenerating black money or real estate. What happens is once you announce that there is a station coming up there, it’s a win-win situation for the developers. All the projects will show that projects will show proposed metro station. You know, they use technical terms to confuse people. Station-at-par, What is station at par? Why do you want a railway station inside Aarey? They themselves have admitted that it is an eco-sensitive zone. Their own maps, their transit network maps, clearly demarked Aarey as forest area. So they have not even respected their own records. Because today the greed or money that is involved in that real estate transaction, you will probably not construct today. Who’s statement, this bureaucrat who has made the statement will not be here after five years later. What is the record? Has it been given to you in writing to the citizens and will the government honor it? We know what happens when statement are made off, nothing is going to happen. This place will be constructed on eventually, If you go to the- let us give another example- please go to the four bungalows metro side, metro shed set in four bungalows, there the entire area is about twelve to fourteen hectares of land and there are six commercial and residential towers. The actual area before the shed is less than eight hectares; the rest is being constructed on. Sheds can be scattered across the route also, it is not that it has to be in one place. There is sufficient land in Backbay, you can have small ones in Kalina, small in BKC, small one in other area, Kanjurmarg can accommodate the entire area. There are many options, let’s not discuss that. Let us accept everything that the MMRC insists, let them show the documents showing on which date they went to the alternate sites and what was their observation. We asked for the site inspection reports, they said they are none, the answer was nil which means they never even went to the site. This plan was hatched in someone’s mind that Aarey is the best place for exploiting for real estate and that’s where it landed finally.

How do you propose we have this metro without involving Aarey ?

We have shown this Mahalaxmi, Kalina and designated reserved places at backbay and Kanjurmarg are four options which should be considered. They have not considered this and this is a very, I am coming on record and saying that the MMRC has never considered these options. And the same has been reiterated by the scientist in the expert committee appointed by the government where they said that no data about other sites was given to them. They were told that the other sites are not suitable, so Aarey should be given to them. So even there they have cheated us, all we are saying that you appoint an individual committee of retired or expert judges. I mean those who can sit on judgement, we will not even take their vote to the judiciary. We will put all our facts in a public forum or wherever you choose to and let the people decide. MMRCL has shied away from a public debate right from day one, for a body which claims to do so much of public good and doing everything in public interest, how much time will it take? They will have to spend one hour on a public platform to explain their position and we would tell our proof, whatever we had. They have not done it, till today even the chief minister, Hon. Shri Devendra Fadnavis, has not sat down and listened to the citizens or even bothered to find a solution. Whenever things get heated up, he buys time and he pushes the issue to a back burner.

What are the actual numbers in terms for the land used for this car shed and how much is barricaded and how much are we really going to loose from Aarey ?

We will lose about thirty-five hectares from Aarey. Thirty-five hectares is what we have measured, it could be much more than that. But it’s not thirty-five hectares; this is what has been barricaded. Till today the ministry of environment and forest has not explained where is this one sixty-five hectares which has been given which has been given to metro. And hundred and sixty five hectares for what? Even the metro guys are hiding this, the details of this, so where is this land? Hundreds of sixty five acres is a huge plot of land.

There’s this varying numbers of the size of the car shed, how much is going to be used? The government says that its going to be 25 hectares. They’ve reduced the tree cutting by 5 hectares – what are the actual numbers on this?

The number game played out by MMRCL – the tree number game – in the honorable high court of Bombay, the MMRCL filed an affidavit saying that 250 trees would be cut. When the matter came up in the NGT, they said that 500 trees would be cut. In 2017, they issued a tender for cutting 3400 trees which is 10 times the amount they had promised. This was nothing but a blatant breach of trust – a complete falsehood given. The area of the car shed – the MMRCL officials kept saying that the minimum area is 30 hectares, that was the only reason why aarey was selected. Today when things have heated up, they have reduced their demand to 24 hectares. They have filed an affidavit in the NGT and said that we need only 20 hectares. Honesty is completely missing in their statements and it’s a complete farce.

Have you tried protesting against this breach of court orders?

Before protesting, we follow all the protocol. We inform all the statutory bodies that such and such violation is going on. Statutory body is the MCGM, the municipal corporation, Maharashtra pollution control board, collectors office, environment dept, water resources authority – we have told everyone. It is only after they failed to take action that we started to protest. We are all people from civil society. We have all got our livelihoods to look for and we have got stomachs to feed. When we protest, it’s a sign that the machinery has failed us. We have protested many times in aarey and the last gathering of people was called a protest. Our understanding of protest would be that there would be slogans raised, banners held against the government, there would be marching or disrupting of public life. Nothing of that sort was happening. People had gathered in the garden on a Sunday morning after buying tickets – the garden is in such a bad shape that no one wants to go there – that again is a different story altogether. People were peaceful, they gathered there and decided that we have to mobilize more people for this. People’s opinion matters and this government will have to listen to us.

If its such a powerful court, how can one ignore its orders and get away with it?

This is a problem with the judicial system. Generally they are not very harsh on government bodies and here we have a case where they would say that its in public interest, we did it in good faith, we didn’t mean to ignore the orders. So long as there is no malafide in your acts, the courts will tend to forgive you. And that is the sentiment which this MMRCL is trying to ride on.

How binding is the restraining order or the status quo order from the NGT? What kind of court is it? What is its status? What hold does it have?

NGT is a court addressing environmental cases and forest conservation issues. Forest conservation act and the environment protection act are the strength areas for the NGT. Tey have jurisdiction in those areas. They have powers equal to any other court in this country, infact an appeal against the NGT lies only with the Supreme court of india which means they are a very competent and empowered body. The NGT act itself is an act by the parliament. So it is a powerful court and has all the powers to take action in case of environmental destruction.

Is the MMRCL in contempt of court orders right now?

Yes, definitely. The problem here is that MMRCL will plead ignorance – selective ignorance. We thought it is like this so we did this.

The MMRCL claims that there is no restraining order and that the attorney general has confirmed this piece of information.

It’s a tricky situation. The attorney general will say its my interpretation. I am not so big a person to challenge the attorney general but it would have been just if they looked at the context and the timing of the status quo order. It was passed in august 2015 based on a proposal which was sent by the forest department which included most of aarey. That status quo order stands even today. Let them show the order which shows the staus quo has been withdrawn. Its not just the MMRCL violating the law today, the FD themselves have violated the law by constructing walls inside the ESZ.

What is the forest dept’s take on all the going on right now?

Forest dept is another wing of the state government machinery and they do not fight against each other. The FD has taken a very peculiar stand. In their proposal sent to the moef they have said that aarey is very much like a forest – all its flora and fauna is very much like the sanjay Gandhi national park and it must be declared an ESZ. After MMRCL comes into the picture, it does a complete u turn. It says that since there are non forest activities going on in aarey, it cannot be considered a forest. Now see the irony, there are lands along the western express highway towards the mountains where the land is infested with slums. There are 5000, 10,000 slums there and that land is bitterly contested as forest land by the forest dept which after putting in a proposal saying that aarey is forest is saying today that we don’t want anything to do with it. The entire government machinery whether it is the forest dept, whether it is the pollution control board, or the municipal corporation – all have been rendered ineffective by this government.

Is there a restraining order on work against the MMRCL for this particular plot of land?

The entire aarey colony has a restraining order. Its not limited to the MMRCL plot. The entire aarey colony is under the ESZ. The moef without explaining has carved our 165 hectares for the metro car shed. Now you see the situation where the metro project proponent MMRCL wants 30 hectares of the land and the moef says you take 165. Where is this 165? No body knows. We have challenged that also. The status quo in aarey is based on the eco sensitivity proposed by the forest dept in its 2013 proposal. The entire area has been kept invalid by the NGT – its our understanding.

Can the NGT ignore all the media reports showing work happening on the ground?

Definitely not. We have raised this issue for the 3 acre plot they destroyed and that matter is being heard. In fact there are about 4 cases which are pending in the NGT. We are very hopeful that they will take note of whatever is being done. But the problem is in the matters of environment once the damage is done, to undo it it takes a huge effort. All agencies that destroy the environment use the judicial process to delay justice. They try to frustrate you by keeping the matter pending in the courts and not allowing any action or redressal to happen.

They are constructing on the land there, aren’t they?

They are reclaiming the grass lands there, they are pushing the trees down. They have barricaded the area so that people don’t see anything and they are doing all this in such a clandestine manner. Lets ask this question on the face of MMRCL that if you have all the permissions why are you in court since the last two years? You are saying you are all powering, all encompassing, you are equal to god, you have all the permissions so you can go ahead and do what you want. You don’t need any permissins is your first argument, your second argument is that you have all the permissions then why are you coming to the NGT, why is your lawyer travelling every time. In the last hearing, we were pressing for a final hearing and the judge observed in his order that we were pressing for a final hearing since there was work going on the ground and MMRCL said that there is no work going on and they were happy with the date of November 10th. On the one hand, you take an extension from the court and you start work on the ground and then you acreate a situation saying that we thought that metro act is allowing us so we did it. Now we are sorry,now the land is destroyed – what can we do? It’s a fait accompli, this is not acceptable.

Are there any restraining orders by the NGT regarding the work in aarey on the metro shed plot?

When the first status quo order was imposed in august 2015, the NGT said that there would be a status quo in the entire aarey colony. During this the MMRCL lawyer said that we want to survey the land, we want to do all our drawings and all our designing work. If you don’t allow us to go on the land, how will we do it? So the court said that there is no restraining order for that, go ahead and do it. So that order that there is no restraint is being used to circumvent the previous order of status quo. In any case, this dispute can only be settled by the NGT. The honorable judges will decide on it. The staus quo was for the EAZ, the ecologically sensitive zone proposed by the forest department in 2013. That was when the status quo was passed. The meaning of the no restraining order has been conveniently twisted by the MMRDA. The issue came up because they wanted to survey the land and under the guise of survey, they have done everything today.

Could you give us an idea about the legal history relating to this case against metro and aarey in general? When and how it started and what the current status is?

The case started in November 2014 when there were notices stuck on the trees (around 3000) saying that they were going to be cut within ten days time and that’s when people got into the act and tried to stop it. We went to the tree authority and filed a petition in the Bombay high court stating that the trees were being needlessly cut and that this site should be protected. Incidently, this petition which was being cut in the high court of Bombay was dismissed based on the submission by the MMRDA (or MMRCL which did not exist then).

In January 2015 the court ruled that MMRCL is saying that there is no permission granted by the tree authority to cut any tree so this petition is premature which means that they accept that they need permission from the tree authority. That is contrary to the stand that they are taking today that the metro act doesn’t need any permission. And the situation has not changed today.

After the high court judgment, we went to the NGT and we filed a case because we discovered that aarey was already an ecosensitive zone which was proposed by the forest department in 2013. So we sought the notification of the entire area of the national park and simultaneously we took it to the court. There is another case in the supreme court which is called the godavarman case in which the SC had ordered that all forests should be identified and notified and protected. Aarey with its 5 lakh trees was begging for protection so we sought the declaration of aarey as a forest in the tribunal and the case has been going on since 2015.

The MMRCL states that all said and done, the metro act supersedes any other kind of law and they can reroute rivers, they can go against other laws that seem to contradict this. What’s the legal framework on this?

This was a case that was taken before the national green tribunal in Pune where they came up with this argument that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear cases regarding metro because the metro act is overpowering all other acts. Its living in a fool’s paradise. The act is draconian and it cannot be accepted. The pune metro was ordered to halt work on the river bed in pune where they wanted to set up some pillars so they challenged this decision of the NGT in the supreme court. The SC referred the matter back to the NGT which has passed a detailed order on this very issue aout the metro act being all powering. The metro act has no provision for environmental damages to be reduced. It has not even addressed the issue of how environmental damage will be contained and it is an act which cannot supersede the NGT act which has come into force after the metro act and it is meant to protect the environment from unplanned development. NGT act comes into play to protect against unplanned development.

NGT act is not against development. One thing we need to remember, India is a signatory to the Rio convention where we have said that the precautionary principle will apply. In matters of environment, we need to take the precautionary principle to take shape. Here we have a case where they are least bothered about any environmental law. They say we can divert rivers, we can do what we want. Now tell me, you divert the river, who is going to compensate the people who are dependent on that river? How can you take refuge under a law that is draconian and for an argument that has been trashed by the NGT. They have not gone against the SC against it. So until the SC clarifies whether the metro act can do what it wants and the citizens of the country, the constitution (because it guarantees you clean environment) – legally this argument does not hold true and it’s a matter that is still sub judice. So the MMRCL cannot claim refuge under the metro act.

*“In our view, therefore, explicit of provisions of the NGT Act, 2010 have been enacted for effective

and expeditious disposal of the cases relating to environment protection, conservation of forest and

other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and granting relief and compensation for damages to the persons and property, and for the matters connected or incidental thereto; and as such confer a jurisdiction on us to entertain,try and dispose off the present Application regardless of the provisions of MR Act, 1978, which stand superseded by virtue of Section 33 of the NGT Act, 2010. Hence, the Application is rejected.”*

There is no utterance in the metro act regarding the damage caused to the environment due to works undertaken by the metro rail administration and the in built mechanism of grievances made in that regard. Which means that metro act has no provision for any damage or redressal regarding any laws to the damage to the environment which means that that law is incomplete. We will challenge it eventually because no one can have absolute power. It is wrong because your basic right to clean air and water cannot be compromised by an agency.

Can something be done in aarey about the land that has been lost to things like royal palms among others?

It’s a little late to push out people and ask them to vacate. If you take royal palms, I think it alone has around 15000 occupants. Similarly in malad and dindoshi, many IT parks and residential buildings have come up. We cannot ask for them to be displaced. We cannot ignore the fact that 180 acres of land inside aarey is occupied by illegal slums. Slums have come up on government land while the government was watching. They have created the vote banks there so everyone has a stake in it. You have a very complex situation in aarey where the big players and the slum dwellers have siphoned off land and everyone has a very equitable relationship with the politicians. Aarey unfortunately has been on the receiving end for quite some time now.

Have people been eying aarey for a long time?

Yes, it was always on the radar of the developers. The scam of aarey runs back almost 25 years. Like I told you in the beginning that the land was given to the forest department and the records went missing. Then everyone started to partake in the dinner. Many townships are coming up on its outskirts and almost 30% of aarey land has gone off into the wrong hands.

Can it ever pay for itself, without selling land?

That would be difficult and it is precisely my point. Does it make business sense to sell off your assets? Do you sell off your gold to buy a good of luxury? You don’t do that. You don’t sell off your assets to indulge. This is indulgence. It’s a way of competing against other cities and showing off. Even the PM is on record saying that never mind we don’t travel but we have to show off to the world.

Will this metro project ever be viable for Mumbai city?

Metro project would be viable. It would provide another mode of transport. But viability in what way? Of course people will travel but it is not definitely a planned project. The routes which are chosen are not the ones which need the metro right now. The traffic in western railway (colaba to seepz) Is not on the lines they are looking at.

Do you know that the loan that is coming from JICA for this project, for instance the bullet train loan, is tied to the Indian inflation rates and the relationship of the rupee with the yen because the real interest that we pay might be something else overtime, right?

Definitely, that calculations are never told to people. Everyone thinks that someone is sitting and giving you money for free. There is no free lunch, nothing is free in this world. When a person is lending you money, rest assured that he will take it back with interest. He is not your friend who will give you money free of cost. 30 yrs, 40 yrs, if we are going to keep making these repayments, it is definitely not a proposition we should be indulging in. Coming back to metro 3, if you go back to 2006, the previous governments termed this project as unviable because of the cost involved and because the exercising of constructing would be so expensive and the environmental damage would be huge. These were the three concerns that kept this project from taking off. But this government decided that money is all that matters and the sooner they hand over this project to contractors, the easier it is to make money.

Is MMRDA authorized to sell FSI through transfer of development rights?

They are authorized except in CRZ areas. Now that’s the catch here. That’s why they have not gone to any other places because they have to generate money – money for this project. And this money is being raised through the sale of public land and unfortunately they have chosen the forest to be sold.

How is FSI of one place used in another and how this works? What Is the legality, what is the mechanism for this?

When the metro project have an inbuilt FSI sale component into it which means that how much area goes into construction of the project, that much area is considered to be constructible area and the value of the quantum of constructed area can be transferred somewhere else. It can be sold.

Supposing, a builder wants to develop somewhere but he doesn’t have the fsi for it, he can approach MMRDA and say I want FSI, he can purchase the FSI from MMRDA. Or even MMRDA can themselves construct wherever they want to in another place. So let us assume in a plot of 30 hectares, one hectare is 1,07,000 sq ft. now multiply that by 30 and it’s a figure which will be equal to the budget of the state. Because you are talking about the fsi of 1 but if you do it residential the figure would be 3 and if you do commercial, the figure could be 5. So multiply that figure with 5. It runs into thousands and thousands of – tens of thousands of crores.

Why are they are still insisting on aarey?

These sites which have been mentioned as options starting with back bay, mahalaxmi, kalina, kanjurmarg do not have the growth potential or the FSI – floor space index – availability for sale. Now the question is why is it not being done by selling the land in other places? It is because the other areas happen to be in the CRZ, where the coastal regulatory rules come into play which means that there is no fsi trade off possible. Aarey is the only land where you can have fsi of 3 or even 5.

So kanjurmarg vs aarey for the metro car shed is a question of ecology vs business?

Yes. It’s a trading off between a proposed business park and a forest and in the MMRCL and the state government’s definition, the business park wins. Kanjurmarg was proposed as an option along with backbay by the government’s own experts in the committee appointed by the CM. now, there were two experts who knew the basics of environment and know not just the basics, almost all aspects of the environment. One was from NERI and one from IIT – both experts categorically told that aarey would be choice no 3 and would definitely not be the best location for the car shed.

What are the other options?

First option is backbay which has a reservation. There is no issue there, it’s a reserved plot of land and meant for this facility.

Second one is a port trust land. Port trust lands run into 100 acres or more. 100s of acres of land is available at the car park. It’s a land which is not being used, there are defunct or abandoned godowns there and it is the best place for locating this because the tree cover is very minimal and the damage would be very less.

Third option is mahalaxmi race course. Mahalaxmi race course was handed over to the MMRDA to be used for the metro car shed but they chose to withdraw from the mahalaxmi car shed for reasons best known to them and they came to aarey. The reason given by the MMRCA was that the race course had a heritage structure on it. The heritage structure is a spectators stand which is a grade three heritage structure. Horse racing has stopped and there is enough open land next to it. Yet, they did not use it. The lease for the horse racing has expired and the land is available to the government. And the basic fact remains that this land was given to them and they chose to walk out of it.

Fourth Option is BKC. MMRCL refused point blank to consider it saying that it is high real estate. This must be the only country in the world where a land with 4000 trees on it next to river is less precious than a land that has no trees on it. The land at BKC is barren – there are no trees on it and most importantly it is in the custody of MMRDA.

Fifth option was kalina university. Kalina university has enough land which is lying unused since the past two decades. It has been encroached by slums and there are vested interests at play that are trying to grab that land. Interestingly, this land was also sought and accepted as an option in the project report. Now kalina – they are saying that the land is not sufficient. There is more than 25 hectares of land available at kalina.

Sixth option is dharavi. It’s a huge slum – massive property which has to be eventually redeveloped – all alum dwellers need to be re settled. They cant be living in filth all their lives – it has been part of the government’s plan for many years now. Moving the slum dwellers and locating the car shed there would benefit everyone.

Seventh option There is enough land inside SEEPZ, inside the MIDC for this car shed. Its very visible – they have not considered that.

Eighth Option Now the most viable and most available land is the kanjurmarg dumping grounds. Kanjurmarg is an abandoned salt pan which does not receive any tide water for the last 15 years. The land is barren hard and it is available.

Kanjurmarg has more than 250 acres of land – enough to accommodate a metro shed and a complete transport hub. They said that there is a litigation going on this land. If kanjurmarg was not suitable, why did the Maharashtra state government go to the Bombay high court and file a petition that this land was suitable for construction and since aarey was an ecosensitive zone, the court should grant permission to build a metro shed there?

They filed this petition in 2016. MMRCL has made no effort to even mention this matter in the court or even pursue it. They did not follow up the case and the case if lying there. There is land in kanjurmarg for 10 metro sheds, not one and it is still available and it is possible

Are there reserved spots for the carshed?

Whenever a project is conceived, there is a reserve place for that facility to be located and that is reflected in the city’s development plan. The development plan of the city 1991 to 2015 showed the car shed to be located at back bay which means that there is a place for this facility to be located and it is at the terminal end of the route. So when you have a reserved plot of land waiting for you, demarcated for this particular activity, why have you chosen to come into aarey and destroy in a no development zone.

Why cant it be located at Aarey?

Now this facility is sought to be located in a 30 acre plot which is on the banks of the mitthi river and which has tributaries and channels flowing to it and emptying in the river. And it has 3500 trees in it. The question is why should a forest which has 3500 trees in it on the banks of a river be the chosen site for a polluting industry? Is it because there are not options? That is certainly not the case.

What is a car shed?

It is a place where the rakes will be washed, serviced, painted – batteries, chemicals – all kinds of things will be used. In this industry – its not that they are doing it deliberately – every washing, servicing industry has to. The locomotive industry will be using these chemicals. Hence they are categorized as a red category industry which requires a high degree of insfrastructure to protect the neighbouring areas and the ground water from pollution.

How do we know the papers are missing?

When we filed an RTI, mantralay replied saying that the papers which we are seeking have been lost in a fire, the national park says that its probably gone in the floods of 2006, the collector has no memory or any kind of document in his position. Everywhere these documents have gone missing.

Was Aarey declared to be a forest and part of the SGNP on paper?

This entire forest land was given to the national park way back in 1969. The papers relating to this transfer have gone missing but the admissions are very much there on record that this land was given to the forest department. Mysteriously, the papers showing that 2000 hectares of land which went to the national park are missing from the collectors office, are missing from the mantralay’s office, its missing from the national park’s office, its missing from the revenue departments, from the tehsildars – name it and this record has gone missing from everywhere.

Is Aarey a forest?

The issue about aarey revolves around two points right now – 1. The basic thing that aarey is a land adjacent, adjoining, adjoined with the sanjay Gandhi national park. It has 5 lakh trees on it. There is ample wildlife, ample birds, flora fauna – everything that is needed for a forest is present in aarey. That is one part of it.