The Mumbai Congress on Tuesday alleged a Rs 18,000 crore scam brewing in the Maharashtra government’s plans to allot a whopping 30 hectares of prime green land for a car-depot of the upcoming Mumbai Metro III line. The government dismissed the “misleading” claims. Addressing the media along with activists of the Aarey Conservation Group, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam accused the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) of issuing advertisements for the land, which contained “blatant lies”. The activists, including D. Stalin, Amrita Bhattacharya, Priya Mishra, Biju Augustine and Zoru Bathena, said the Mumbai MMRC has claimed that all activities undertaken at the lush green Aarey Milk Colony are legally permitted though the case is pending before the National Green Tribunal’s Pune bench, which has not given permission for work to start on the car-depot. “In all other cities, only 12 hectares are required to construct such a car depot, but here Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis 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,” Nirupam said.
He and the activists contended that there were seven major “lies” in the MMRC ads, among them a claim that the land in Aarey Milk Colony belongs to the Dairy Development Department. “However, the DDD is merely the custodian and it has said it has only 300 acres of land under it, not the 3,000 acres being claimed by the government,” said Stalin. Nirupam observed that as per the Development Plan, Colaba has been earmarked for constructing of the Metro car depot for the proposed Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Metro corridor.
“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 said. Criticising the move strongly, Nirupam charged 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. 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.
The MMRC has claimed that a little more than 3,000 trees shall be affected due to the car depot, though the actual construction of the depot will be on 22 hectares and three acres will utilised for a station. The rest would remain untouched. Dismissing the allegations, a CMO spokesperson said Nirupam’s statement were misleading and intended to tarnish Fadnavis’ image. He said the entire 30 hectares of land will be used only for Mumbai Metro car depot and not for commercial uses, while five hectares would be left as “a green patch”. Moreover, the decision to hand over the land was taken by the then Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government of Prithviraj Chavan and possession given in October 2014.