CM’s secret operation to save Aarey

How a team of five worked to get Kanjurmarg land cleared of all hurdles.

While Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced the shifting of the Metro-3 car shed from Aarey Colony to Kanjurmarg only on Sunday, the top-secret backroom operations were ongoing for the past one and a half months. According to a senior minister, Thackeray gave the final go ahead to shift the car shed to Kanjurmarg at a meeting on August 29.

The land, which is owned by the state government, was handed over to the MMRDA on October 6, five days before the CM made the official announcement. A day before the announcement, the CM called Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and a few other ministers to inform them of the decision.

CM Thackeray had formed a special team of five top officials from across departments to execute the shifting plan, including Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray and MMRDA Chief RA Rajeev. The others in the team were Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL) chief Ranjit Singh Deol, urban development secretary Bhushan Gagarani and suburban collector Milind Borikar. The key deciding factor that tilted the balance in Kanjurmarg’s favour was the merging of car sheds of Metro 3 and Metro 6.

According to a senior minister, CM Thackeray gave the final go ahead to shift the Metro 3 car shed at Kanjurmarg at a meeting on August 29. “At this meeting, another option was discussed – Pahadi Goregaon, which would cost Rs 2,000 crore.

As far as Kanjurmarg was concerned, MMRDA chief Rajeev suggested that depots for Metro line 3 and 6 could be integrated. This was the biggest factor in deciding to shift the car shed to Kanjurmarg,” a minister in the government said. While MMRCL is implementing Metro-3 (Colaba-Bandra-Seepz), MMRDA is building Metro-6 (Lokhandwala-Jogeshwari-Vikhroli-Kanjurmarg).

MMRDA commissioner Rajeev, who studied the two lines in detail, informed the CM that the integration of the two lines was possible. “This was the single biggest factor in taking the car shed of Metro 3 to Kanjurmarg. Since the specifications of the two lines have to be the same and there has to be a seamless operation. The CM asked him to check this and he came back with a yes,” the minister said.

Officials held a series of meetings right through June, July and August to check on the various alternatives to the Aarey site. Activist Zoru Bathena and urban planner Pankaj Joshi were also called for one of the meetings, many of which were headed by Aaditya Thackeray. They discussed all the details on Kanjurmarg but were not told that the CM had decided to shift the car shed there. All officials were instructed not to tweet details until a final decision was taken by the CM.

“There was a series of meetings which was held in Mantralaya. There was a lot of misinformation about the Kanjurmarg land. The previous government had said that this land was under litigation and it was marshy land. All this was verified. The land that the BJP is talking about in Kanjurmarg which they claim has a court stay and high acquisition cost is next to the land handed over to the MMRDA. The land which has been handed over to the MMRDA is totally owned by the state government and litigation free. This became possible because we are merging the car sheds for Metro 3 and 6,” the minister explained.

While Aaditya Thackeray pushed for the shifting, ministers from other departments also pitched in and facilitated works from their department like Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde. After the CM’s announcement on Sunday, Aaditya tweeted, “Car depot of Metro 6 & Metro 3 will be common at Kanjurmarg. The land for the same has been handed over to MMRDA last week, for a sum of Rs 0/- (Free of cost) and soil testing has begun. It was always told it’ll cost more than Rs 10,000 crore. It happens to be free. Metro 3 and Metro 6 would have same technical specifications, most importantly would increase connectivity for eastern suburbs to the mid and south of Mumbai.”

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