Maharashtra is fast becoming a playground for the Thackeray father-son duo to realise their exotic dreams. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray led the way by proposing a ‘world-class’ aquarium in Mumbai and Aaditya is now contemplating having a ‘Mumbai Eye’ on the lines of the famous London Eye. All the exotic dreams are being realised at the expense of the much-wanted metro which has been stalled by the Thackerays as if they have a personal vendetta against that mode of transport.
Ashwini Bhide, one of the state’s most efficient IAS officers and the Managing Director (MD) of Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), has been transferred by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government which all but spells the death knell for the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ Mumbai Metro 3 project.
Ranjit Singh Deol, the current vice-chairman and managing director of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) is set to replace her. Bhide’s transfer comes on expected lines as Aaditya Thackeray in the past had publicly demanded her removal as Bhide was in no mood to give in to the hollow demands of the disruptive NGO-backed Aarey protesters as she often fearlessly busted their agenda on ground as well as on social media.
First of all Arey land is a grazing land that belongs to Dairy development dept of the state govt and not forest. Total area is 1300 Ha. Only 25 Ha is required for metro car depot. Sometimes this land is deliberately confused with Borivali national park. It is not the same.
— Ashwini Bhide (@AshwiniBhide) March 7, 2019
The previous state government’s plan to cut about 2,700 trees in Aarey Colony in north Mumbai for car shed of the metro had green activists and citizens’ groups up in the arms including Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray. However, Bhide as the head of MMRCL had vociferously defended the metro project at Aarey by stating that it was impossible to shift the car shed anywhere else as suggested by certain activists.
The new Maha Vikas Aghadi government who is on a spree to halt all the major infrastructure and development projects including the Jalyukt Shiver project was enraged as IAS Ashwini Bhide argued that halting the car-shed construction in Aarey would virtually stop the project which she had helped fast track. She argued with the environmentalists and activists that the alternative plot suggested and/or lobbied for by them was not big enough while drawing their attention to the massive cost overruns which ran into crores of rupees per day. Of course, this is a government where ego rules over everything and the state government could not afford to hurt the ego of Aaditya Thackeray who had taken part in the protests against the required felling of trees and hence, IAS Bhide had to bite the dust.
IAS Ashwini Bhide kept informing them that the Metro project will stop if the construction in Aarey is cancelled.
She told them that the alternative plot suggested/lobbied for by them wasnt big enough
Also told them about the massive cost overruns.
They are transferring her https://t.co/OUV5rhqidz
— Shubhangi Tiwari (@shubh19822) December 1, 2019
About 13,000 objections were received for the project and out of those 13,000, 10,000 objections were from one Bengaluru-based website indicating suspicious, coordinated activity sponsored by larger players, which specializes in the stalling of the metro project. Is it Bhide’s fault that dynast Aaditya fell prey to the massive disinformation campaign against the Metro car shed?
Bhide stood up for the metro project because she realised the importance of the project for Mumbai who’s transport infrastructure is literally on the brink of collapse. For someone like me whose daily commute involves catching a Churchgate train from Andheri station in the morning and returning in the evening by a Virar local, there are clear indications that the cost of human lives is negligible, especially for the elite. I am a first-hand witness every day to the overcrowded Andheri station which hosts about 7,00,000 commuters every day, and the conditions for such travel are in no way normal.
It is important to note that, the project has received funding from Japan who in turn, did a study on the project for one year with sustainability in mind and after that, they gave funding to it. Total tress affected for car depot is 2700 of which CO2 absorption capacity would be 80 to 90 Ton per year. Metro 3 once commissioned would reduce 2.25 lakh ton CO2 and other oxides of Carbon and Nitrogen per year. This estimation is done by independent auditors of UNFCC.
Bhide has been further backed by the judiciary as the Bombay High Court dismissed all Aarey petitions, called it “sheer voyeurism” and even slapped hefty fines on certain petitioners.
But I guess that doesn’t matter. Just look at the upside, the Maharashtra government recently sanctioned cutting down of 724 trees in Navi Mumbai for building a golf course, and Aaditya Thackeray isn’t complaining because he just found a new ground to play around. Of course, part-time protestors and Bollywood actors like Dia Mirza and the ilk aren’t complaining about the chopping down of trees in Navi Mumbai because they just discovered a new posh hangout spot.
The common man continues to be a mere bystander as the Thackerays toy around with Maharashtra as if it is their playground.