The Aarey forest verdict by Bombay High Court evoked very strong emotions on social media and rightly so. However, a very disturbing trend I see is the extremism and rhetoric which has been adopted by people to drive home their points. Right from, “This is the Acche Din BJP Government were talking about” to “Has any protestor travelled in Mumbai Local at peak time”, social media has been abuzz with everything. However, I wondered how does such posts help? Through such posts one will get ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ from people who already share the same views as that of author’s view. Not a single post I have read,
has tried to provide views from both sides (which makes us same as Arnab??). Yes, the trees were cut overnight on October 4 2019 which is unacceptable, however shouldn’t we also talk about sustained efforts that have also been undertaken by MMRC to plant around 21,000 trees? Further, with commuters to adopt Mumbai Metro instead of private PVs, will it be net environment positive? What will be net impact on ecosystem ten years down the line?

If Government chooses to shift the Metro shed to a privately –owned Land which generally leads to delay in land procurement and hence the project, what would be the opportunity cost for environment? Further, in most cases where procurement is from private owner, a so called ‘activist’ (I know in an ideal world I should not sterotype activists) would collude with private land owner, stage intense protests about X number of shopkeepers/warehouses losing employment or identify any other reason, drive acquisition prices higher and enjoy their earnings. If MMRC had to procure land from private owner thereby leading to delays, would that delay have led to environment to suffer for more time as more PVs would continue to ply on roads? Also, if the incremental costs led to higher price tickets, would the project be viable? Either, project could have stalled or higher ticket prices would act as deterrent to its adoption. Also if project failed, loan extended to project could have become NPA, and we would have perhaps blamed PSU banks for ineffeciency.

It is easy to carry out one sided campaign through rhetoric, as facts are not given weightage in such narratives. It is more difficult to look at the issue from both Government’s angle and Activists angle and put out relevent facts. Both the parties have plenty to hide and their agendas are almost always different than what meets the broader public’s eye.

The most concerning point for me is the High Court’s verdict which said that ‘Aarey is not a forest’. I hope it does not form a precedent for future cases with regards to Aarey or similar land parcels across India.

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