Protesting over rehabilitation from Aarey Milk Colony’s Prajapurpada for construction of the Metro 3 corridor by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC), about 70 tribals are slated to approach the Bombay High Court. The agitators from the two-centuries-old settlement were moved, along with encroachments from Sariput Nagar, to an SRA building in Chakala. “We have been displaced from our land like slumdwellers and have been given rehabilitation along with them. We are the original inhabitants of the pada and our family has stayed there for over five decades. We had open area in front of our homes where we would do farming. Adivasis have always lived for free with lots of space but now, we feel like parrots inside a cage,” said Sanjay Padavi, one of the protesters.
The land in Aarey is being used by the MMRC for the construction of a ramp using which the underground Metro will come up to the ground for the last station, Aarey Colony, and the car depot. Apart from the tribals, around 150 slumdwellers were also moved from Sariput Nagar in February and April last year. Another 20 to 30 tribals are also set to be shifted from an adjacent plot. According to the tribals, they were not given enough time to shift out of their places and the notice was served to them two days before the day of shifting. “They did not even allow us to pack our belongings. They themselves moved it out and demolished the house before our eyes. We were removed from our ancestral land like encroachers,” said Sujit Masurkar, a tribal protester.
The tribals want to be rehabilitated according to the MUTP policy that gives special status to “indigenous people” by providing them with alternative land. After the MMRC conducted a survey identifying the Project Affected People (PAP), these tribals wrote to the MMRC in 2015 seeking an alternative land. “However, we received a response to the letter only in 2017 after they demolished our houses. The letter asked us to produce 7/12 documents,” Masurkar said.
The MMRC, however, claims that the tribals do not have documents proving their indigenous status. “When we asked them for their documents proving that the land is in their possession, they could not produce those. The Forest Rights Act is very clear about the guidelines. Their structures were on government land and we had to vacate it,” said an MMRC official.
Loss of land also means loss of livelihood for the tribals as they would grow vegetables on the land and sell those for a living. “They have not only taken away our land but also our source of income. In these apartments, where will we grow vegetables?” said Padavi.
An official said: “We will provide them with some rehabilitation activity that will focus on giving them livelihood opportunities. We will be organising some activities for Women’s Day.”