The issue of deforestation for the metro shed in the Aarey forest area in Mumbai has taken a political turn. The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have included global warming in their campaign prominently, issuing a joint manifesto for the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly election.
The Congress-NCP released the manifesto on Monday for the Assembly election. The manifesto includes issues like 80% reservation in jobs for local people and modernisation of madrassas. Both the parties have also made the issue of global warming their electoral plank.
The Supreme Court, while hearing a law student’s letter-turned-petition, had earlier today ordered the Maharashtra government to stop the felling of trees in Aarey forest with immediate effect. It asked to maintain the status quo until the next hearing. The court said that until the bench for forest and environment took a decision in this matter, the status quo should be restored in the area. The apex court will hear the matter next on 21 October.
Mumbai witnessed celebrities-led activism over the felling of over 2,500 trees in Aarey Colony for a proposed car shed for the third phase of Mumbai Metro. The Supreme Court had on Sunday converted the letter to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by a law student seeking a stay on the cutting of trees as public interest litigation.
Critics of the activism say it is a typical anti-development ploy of leftists who use film stars for their campaign. The high-profile activists lack sincerity of purpose as none live in the vicinity of the Aarey forest, they point out. The critics have asked why there was no hue and cry when the land was allotted to the Christian community for a graveyard.
The real question in #AareyForestPolitics is why Govt gave public land to private Church. How sustainable is burial which is turning the earth into a graveyard, occupying land by corpses due to religious superstition about “judgement day” while denying space to the living? https://t.co/h3jZEv59zc
— Sankrant Sanu सानु संक्रान्त ਸੰਕ੍ਰਾਨ੍ਰਤ ਸਾਨੁ (@sankrant) October 7, 2019
Some have questioned how much of green cover is lost in Aarey and asked why there was no protest when the project to develop Film City necessitated deforestation.
Google earth images of Film City, Aarey colony (1984 vs 2018). Forest spread over 520 acres was razed for it. Aarey metro shed area is only 79 acres, half of it is treeless.
Make ur own opinion on social issues. Never let an opportunist bollywoodiya influence u on anything. pic.twitter.com/3jlc2BsnWO
— THE SKIN DOCTOR (@theskindoctor13) October 6, 2019
Former AAP activist Mayank Gandhi has tried to strike a reconciliatory note by appealing to plant trees to compensate for the loss of green cover in Aarey.
Lets give massive positive response to Aarey.
— Mayank Gandhi (@mayankgandhi04) October 7, 2019
BJP leaders on Monday said the government will respect the court order but it hoped that the required permission would be granted once the facts were kept before it. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said, “When the facts pertaining to the development work and environment conservation done by MMRCL is kept before the court on 21 October, I am sure the permission to work on Mumbai metro will be granted.” He said that development and environmental conservation would go hand-in-hand.
However, BJP leader Madhav Bhandari said the top court had not given any specific order. “Court has given the next date of hearing on 21 October. The government will honour Supreme Court directives,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a special bench of the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government to ensure that no trees are further axed at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony.
The election to the Maharashtra Assembly will be held on 21 October for 288 constituencies, the result of which will be declared on 24 October. The BJP and Shiv Sena have formally announced an alliance for the election. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray have announced the BJP-Shiv Sena seat-sharing formula, too. The BJP is contesting 150 and Shiv Sena is fielding its candidates in 124 seats.
Meanwhile, after the ticket distribution for the election, discord within the Congress has surfaced. Mumbai Congress veteran Sanjay Nirupam appeared before the media on Friday, attacking top party leaders including Mallikarjun Kharge, and alleged that a conspiracy had been hatched against Rahul Gandhi and Congress leaders close to the scion. Nirupam claimed that apart from three or four seats in Mumbai, the deposits of candidates would be forfeited across the state.