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About a 1000 citizens from Mumbai, landed in Aarey colony, in Mumbai, in the middle of the night today, hoping to protect the brutal and illegal felling of 100 plus year old trees, by an irresponsible, corrupt, insensitive government, unabashedly committing the grave crime, under cover of darkness, like common criminals.
Several of these precious trees, which are 30-40 inches in diameter, were being sawed down, almost 7 trees in a minute, according to gathered citizens, stealthily, with police protection to keep them at bay.
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Section 144 which prevents unlawful assembly of more than five people, too was hurriedly applied, and used as a tool, to haul these citizens, behind bars. About 23 of these ordinary men and women, who would have probably never agitated in their life will now spend the weekend in dirty, smelly cells, to be produced in court only on Monday! All the entrance routes to Aarey, were sealed off by the police, to prevent more citizens from assembling. In short, the government chose to apply brute strength to quell their voices.
After the Bombay Municipal Corporation, cleared the felling of 2700 trees, a couple of months ago in Aarey forest, which is considered the lungs of the metro city, a city already reeling under pollution, citizens decided to fight back to save the precious green cover.
A five year battle, where voices of 2.5 lakh Mumbaikars rang out, 82,000 of whom wrote to the tree authority, against this criminal act, several petitions in the Mumbai High Court, and the National Green Tribunal, all of which were dismissed on Friday, countless campaigns on social media and on-ground, the citizens are realizing that they are up against foul forces.
2000 plus trees are now feared to have been felled already, even before the citizens could knock on the doors of the Supreme Court on Monday.
The trees, which have withstood rough weather through the decades, finally fell prey to the government’s greed, which wanted to save a mere Rs 7.5 crores, which is what they claimed would have been their additional cost, to build an alternate metro shed, anywhere else outside of Aarey.
A black day indeed for them.
The metro shed which is being built in Aarey, despite the protests is part of the Metro 3 project, from Colaba in South Mumbai to Seepz in the North, now extended to Aarey, which will eventually take down 4000 trees, in Aarey alone and 6500 trees in rest of Mumbai. This amounts to felling 200 trees per km, making it one of the most toxic metros in Mumbai. Yet there is no transparency in the project, with not just details being hidden the taxpayers, but several lies like Aarey not being a forest, or no wildlife being there, too is being out, to defend their project.
None of the city’s 32 MLA’s, five MPs, 217 corporators, countless celebrities came to handhold these ordinary men and women, who vote them in power, to assure them that the trees will be saved. The prime minister Narendra Modi’s constant assurances that environment, “which we have already severely messed up, will not be a casualty in development “, rang hollow tonight.
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Threats of voting the corrupt BJP/Shiv Sena government, rang through the night, besides “Save Aarey” but to little avail. The innocent citizens are yet to wake up to the fact that governments are no longer formed on public mandate alone!
No wonder, Shiv Sena chief, Uddhav Thackeray vowed to fight back to protect Aarey, once they are back in power again! Until netizens reminded them, what about now when it’s them who are in power now!
By Vijaylakshmi Nadar
Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi