Political drama has started over cutting of trees in Aarey Colony of Mumbai for construction of car shed of Mumbai Metro 3. Opposition parties hit back at ruling alliance BJP-Shiv Sena for felling of over 2500 trees while Shiv Sena slammed the state government for this. Shiv Sena is on back foot over the issue of felling trees in Aarey. The party is trying to save its face in this matter. Earlier, Sena had strongly opposed the cutting of trees in the area. Congress accused the Sena of adopting double standards in this case, saying the Shiv Sena ruled BMC has given the permission of axing trees. The party said that it will raise this issue in state assembly elections which is scheduled on October 21. On the other hand, the BJP said that Metro rail project is essential for the development of Mumbai and state. Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar defended the government’s action of axing trees in Aarey Colony.
When our correspondent Nikhil Sagare spoke to Congress leader Bhai Jagtap he said, “Shiv Sena is adopting double standards. Sena had said that they care about the environment but the reality is far different. Congress has worked in favour of environment conservation and environment laws were made stringent during our party’s reign. Why should one choose Aarey colony to construct car shed when many other locations are available in the city?”
Meanwhile, police detained Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar on Sunday when he tried entering Aarey to protest. Later on, he was taken to Powai. Prior to this, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad, Shiv Sena leaders Priyanka Chaturvedi and former Mayor Shubha Raul were also detained for protesting against the cutting of trees. As officials started cutting down trees, police imposed Section 144 CrPC in Aarey Colony and cordoned off the entire area. Security forces managed to scatter people who were protesting against the government’s decision. Twenty nine college students were arrested and 38 persons were booked for protesting over felling of trees. Many people did not come forward to protest due to fear of being arrested and police action.
Shiv Sena spokesperson and deputy chairman of the legislative council Neelam Gorhe said, “We have tried to convince government on every issue. We have taken up this matter in the assembly, cabinet. We have given application and had discussion with the government. There can be two opinions pertaining to an issue within the government. Instead of supporting our stand they want to malign our image.”
The cutting of the trees continued despite protests by people and various political parties. The activist filed an appeal in Bombay High Court for stay during the felling of trees. But High court refused to stay. Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray tweeted, “The upcoming government will be our government, and once we come to power once again, we will deal with the murderers of Aarey forest in the best possible manner.” Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray criticised Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) for cutting trees. He also condemned arrests of people protesting it.
BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar said, “The Bombay High Court has given permission for cutting trees at Aarey Colony. Metro is necessary for Mumbai’s development. This issue will not affect our chances in the upcoming polls.”
It is worth mentioning that there are 4.8 lakh trees in Aarey. On August 29, the BMC tree authority gave green signal to axing over 2600 trees in Aarey Colony. The BMC tree authority ordered to cut 2185 trees and to transplant 461 trees. Environmentalists and activists filed petitions in Bombay High Court against this decision in September. Next day on September 17, the High Court stayed the felling of trees till September 30. On October 4, the High Court dismissed all petitions in this case. Within few hours of High Court’s decision, officials started cutting of trees in the Aarey Colony amid tight security.
People have expressed their anger on social media regarding this action in Aarey Colony. Twitter is abuzz with tweets against felling of trees.
Journalist Nikhil Wagle tweeted over this issue, “Government will go down as the most cowardly and undemocratic government in the history. What was the urgency to cut down #Aarey trees in the night with heavy police protection? It is a direct assault on the right to life of Mumbaikars. SHAME!”
Shreya Nair tweeted, “My sister and best friend were arrested last night during the #Aarey Protests. They were manhandled and have been charged with a non bailable offence. Citizens with a voice being treated like criminals. Videos floating in of random arrests being made to spread fear.”
Progressive Students’ Union tweeted, “This is the situation at #Aarey. People are being detained. Protesters are being lathicharged. Section 144 is imposed. Injustice is at it’s peak. Politicians are busy in election propaganda. Trees are being cut down. MUMBAI IS DYING.”
Actor and Producer Farhan Akhtar tweeted, “Cutting trees at night is a pathetic attempt at trying to get away with something even those doing it know is wrong.”
Congress leader Milind Deora tweeted, “The brutal felling of trees at Aarey is a major setback for Mumbai. It’s like repeatedly stabbing yourself in the lungs! When cities destroy coastlines & green cover, they’re advancing the doomsday clock.”
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted. “On my way to #aarey and main entry points to the site have been blocked by Mumbai Police!”
Former Congress MP Priya Dutt tweeted, “A sad day today where so called development wins over quality of life and preservation of environment. The trees are already being chopped down in the dark of the night. This is murder of mother nature and we will all have to pay for it. God help Mumbai.”