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The Maha Vikas Aghadi government is standing its ground resolutely on the construction of the metro carshed at Kanjurmarg, dubbing the latest kerfuffle a ‘title dispute’ that could be resolved in a court of law. Asserting that work already begun could not be halted based on a letter from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), the Shiv Sena-led government has thereby dropped sufficient hints that it was ready for a face-off and would not succumb to the BJP-led Central government’s pressure tactics.

“Being a ‘title dispute’, the Centre can approach a competent forum -- the court. The MMRDA will not stop work. The work cannot be halted by mere a letter from DPIIT which is affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, headed by Piyush Goyal. It would be ideal for the Centre to take up the issue in court, as it is related to a ‘title dispute’. Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar, MMRDA Commissioner RA Rajeev and officials from the urban development department held a virtual meeting this (Tuesday) morning and discussed the nature of the reply to be soon sent to DPIIT,’’ a senior bureaucrat from Mantralaya told The Free Press Journal, adding, “MMRDA has clearly said the land belongs to the state government.’’

The bureaucrat indicated that the state government was likely to file an injunction in the court so that it could be heard before any order.

DPIIT Chief Guruprasad Mohaptra, a Gujarat cadre bureaucrat, in a letter to Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar, had asked to restrain the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) from carrying out soil testing and related works for the construction of the carshed for Metros 3 and 6 at Kanjurmarg. He further said 102 acres of Kanjurmarg were the remit of the salt commissioner, who reports to the DPIIT. Mohaptra's letter had further stated that the carshed development was against the interest of the Government of India.

Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted, “The Kanjurmarg land allotted by the Collector to MMRDA for Car depot of Metro has always been with the Government of Maharashtra as per revenue records. The Collector, Mumbai Suburban has done due diligence of all land records and all sub-judice matters in all competent courts. The MMRDA will therefore carry on with its work for Metro joint Car Depots at Kanjurmarg as earlier decided.’’

Interestingly, the Government of India, through the deputy salt commissioner on Tuesday, had put up a board at the Kanjurmarg site on Tuesday, saying the area was its land covered under Arthur Salt Works. However, the state urban development officer said it had conducted due diligence before handing over the land to MMRDA free of cost for the construction of a carshed.

The DIPP letter has once again created friction between the Centre and the Mahavikas Aghadi government in the state. Ruling partners Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress have separately led scathing attacks against the Centre, saying the latest move was a clear attempt to play politics and hamper infrastructure development in the city.

NCP leader and Minister of Minority Affairs Nawab Malik alleged it was a conspiracy on the part of the BJP to stop the carshed development at Kanjurmarg. “Initially, the BJP was saying that land at Kanjurmarg is private land, and now, it is claiming it is the Government of India’s land. This is an attempt to put roadblocks in metro development. The BJP is keen to do politics, nothing else,’’ he noted.

According to Malik, in 2002, the issue of the land which did not have any lease was taken back to the state government.

NCP member of Parliament Supriya Sule also criticised the Centre's move and called it 'unfortunate'. She further said that the Centre was giving the state stepmotherly treatment.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the state government would speak in this matter. However, Mumbai Mayor and Shiv Sena leader Kishori Pednekar attacked the Centre saying, an affidavit had been filed in the Bombay High Court during the tenure of the previous Fadnavis government that the Kanjurmarg land belonged to the state government. ''Now, the Centre claims ownership. Does it mean that the ownership of the Kanjurmarg land changed after the change in chief ministers?'' she asked.

The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesman Sachin Sawant said the land title had been in the name of the Maharashtra Government since 1981. There was no evidence that the divisional commissioner had, in 2015, handed over the land to the salt department. It was stamped by the former revenue minister and state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil. Sawant noted that the salt department had not challenged the decision in court for three years but no sooner had the metro carshed project been started that it was being said that the land was owned by the Centre.

“This is not a coincidence. It is because of the BJP leaders in Maharashtra that the Modi government has been creating obstructions,’’ he alleged.

However, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar claimed that it had earlier raised the issue but just to satisfy the ego of 'son and father', the state government had moved to shift the carshed to Kanjurmarg.

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Free Press Journal