CLAIMING THAT the stay on all construction work in Aarey for the Metro 3 has been vacated by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) began preparations for the soil survey at Unit 19 on Thursday. However, faced with opposition from cattle shed owners, the contractors were forced to take back their machinery and leave the land on Saturday evening.
Late Thursday evening, the contractors had visited the land with machinery to conduct soil survey. Owing to pressure by the cattle shed owners, the contractors eventually took their machinery out of the land. However, MMRC continues to claim that the NGT stay on the construction in Aarey has been vacated.
“The NGT stay has been vacated and we can do our work there. If anyone thinks otherwise, they can file for contempt of court. The contractors had to retract today due to the cattle shed owners’ behaviour. But we will file an FIR against them for preventing us from doing our work. The land has been handed to us and we are authorised to work there,” said R Ramana, Executive Director (Planning), MMRC.
Activists claim that the NGT order places a stay on any construction work in Aarey and thus the recent work is in violation of the order. The January 5 order by the tribunal only permits the metro implementing body to start work on setting up a casting yard on a three-hectare plot in Aarey. “The stay has not been vacated beyond the three-hectare plot. The MMRC is not setting an example of how the law should be followed,” says Stalin Dayanand, Director of NGO Vanashakti, one of the applicants of the case.
The cattle shed owners also claim that MMRC contractors began work on their land without giving them prior notice. “We are the licensees for this land and have been paying rent for the last 60 years. They have to give us prior notice and rehabilitate us before they begin work. While we had discussions with them regarding this in 2014 they have not taken it further after that,” says Rahil Nandolia, one of the licensees of Unit 19.
The 10-acre unit 19 has area allotted for cattle sheds, cultivation of fodder and residences. Divided between 14 licensees Unit 19 has 600 cattle, including cows and buffaloes, in the shed. The metro line will be passing through residential quarters which will be rehabilitated elsewhere.
A senior MMRC official says: “We will go back on Monday and if needed, involve the police.”