Mumbai: A day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis dismissed allegations of a Rs 18,000 crore landscam in allotting 30 hectares of land in Aarey Milk Colony for a Metro rail car depot, the Mumbai Congress on Wednesday called him “a liar” and produced documentary evidence to support its claims.
“The CM is lying when he says that the Aarey land does not come under the Forest Department. The Mumbai Metro’s map, a court order and a Collector’s note clearly shows that this land is actually forest land,” Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam told media persons.
Rebuffing Fadnavis’ statement on Tuesday that not a single inch would be used for commercial purposes, Nirupam and Aarey Conservation Group activists circulated media advertisements and maps issued by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) showing 30,000 sq. metres reserved for commercial and realty use.
“By calling this a publicity stunt, the CM is calling the fight of hardworking and honest activists a stunt,” Nirupam said.
Activist D. Stalin said the CM is “trying to hide the truth” since documented evidence proved that the Aarey land is forest land and so no work of Metro Rail should be allowed there.
Nirupam and the Aarey activists created a flutter in political circles on Tuesday when they alleged a major Rs 18,000 crore scam in the Maharashtra government’s decision to allot a whopping 30 hectares of prime green land for a car-depot of the upcoming Mumbai Metro III line.
As per plans, the land will be used to build a car depot for 35 rakes of the 33.5 km long Metro III line, within two years, at a cost of around Rs 325 crore, in the green environs of the picturesque Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon east, a northwestern suburb of Mumbai.
The MMRCL has claimed that a little more than 3,000 trees will be affected due to the car depot, though the actual construction of the depot will be on 22 hectares and three acres will be utilised for a station. The rest would remain untouched as a green patch.
Late on Tuesday, the CM’s Office countered by dismissing the allegations as “misleading” and intended to tarnish Fadnavis’ image.
Nirupam said that the MMRCL’s ads in the media contained “blatant lies”, including the claim that all activities undertaken on the Aarey land are legally permissible though the case is pending before the National Green Tribunal’s Pune bench, which has not granted permission for the work.
The activists, including Stalin, Amrita Bhattacharya, Priya Mishra, Biju Augustine and Zoru Bathena, also questioned the MMRCL’s contention that the land belonged to the Dairy Development Department, which has said it is merely the custodian of 300 acres under it, and not the 3,000 acres claimed by the government.
“In all other cities, only 12 hectares are required to construct such a car depot, but here the CM is allotting 30 hectares. The rest of the land will be exploited for commercial uses which at current rates, amounts to a staggering Rs 18,000 crore,” charged Nirupam.
“The real reason why the government is insisting on constructing it at Aarey Milk Colony is that the land here does not fall under Coastal Regulation Zone rules and can be easily exploited for any commercial purposes,” he added.
He accused Fadnavis of “fooling the people of Mumbai” since Aarey Milk Colony is Mumbai’s green lung and the forested land will be lost forever to the builders and land mafia for commercial constructions.