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Aarey Milk Colony, spread over 1,259 hectares of land, is an extension of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. In 1949, the land we know as Aarey was given to the Dairy Development Board of Maharashtra to shift the cattle sheds from the city to Aarey. Since then this area has been known as Aarey Milk Colony. Aarey has 27 tribal hamlets; in terms of flora and fauna, it has leopards and numerous species of birds, animals, insects, butterflies, snakes, herbs, shrubs and trees (which number more than 4 Lakh 80 thousand).

In November 2014 , morning walkers, cyclists and other regular visitors to Aarey Milk Colony found notices put up, announcing that 2298 trees in Aarey would be felled for construction of the carshed for Metro3. Citizens came together to protest against this mass felling of trees. Thus was born the Save Aarey Movement.

In December 2014 angry citizens for the first time gathered in Aarey Picnic Point area to protest against this unnecessary destruction of the city's ecology. 1200 + citizens came together again in February 2015, creating a human chain along Marine Drive. Post this event, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced appointment of an Expert Committee to explore other options for location of the Metro3 carshed .

The Expert Committee had 6 members; four Bureaucrats and two environmental experts from IIT and NEERI. Both the environmentalists put a dissenting note in the Committee's report, holding that Aarey is an ecologically sensitive area and rich in biodiversity. The proposed carshed location is the floodplain of the Mithi River, and construction in this area can lead to flooding in Andheri. Hence the carshed location should be shifted out of Aarey, they said .The other options for the carshed location suggested by the expert members were Kanjurmarg and Backbay in Colaba.

The Detailed Project Report prepared in 2011 for the Metro 3 Line also mentions three other options (along with the option of 33 ha land in Aarey) for the Metro 3 Carshed location: the ground in Bandra Kurla Complex, 26 Ha of land in Kalina, the Mahalaxmi Race Course. Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation ( MMRCL) always claims that the 33 ha land area in Aarey is the only suitable location for the Metro 3 Carshed.

In 2015 the NGO, Vanashakti, along with citizens, filed a petition in National Green Tribunal (NGT) praying that Aarey be declared a forest and an Eco-Sensitive Zone. NGT on 19th August 2015, ordered status quo in Aarey pending final decision on the case. MMRCL, in August 2017 started dumping debris in the Metro 3 Carshed area in Aarey, along with excavation and mud filling activities in the area. This was in contempt of Court orders and was highlighted at the NGT. On 14th May 2018, NGT again ordered against any dumping of debris, land reclamation and Tree Felling in Aarey pending final decision in the case. But MMRCL continues to violate court orders. They have cordoned off more area in Aarey on the opposite side of the carshed area and have started land reclamation. What initially started as destruction of 33 ha of forest land is now leading to destruction of a much bigger area. Citizens lodged complaints in Aarey Police Station against these violations of court orders. MMRCL has also evicted Adivasis from Prajapur Pada in Aarey to SRA Buildings. This is in violation with Tribal Rights. Adivasis have filed a petition in Mumbai High Court.

On 20th September 2018 Judges from NGT's Principal Bench decided that this matter of declaring Aarey a Forests does not come under NGT's jurisdiction and NGT directed the petitioners to withdraw application and approach the right Authorities. This has happened after 3 and 1/2 years long proceedings in National Green Tribunal.

Through an RTI in 2017, Vanashakti found a letter written by the Divisional Manager of Sanjay Gandhi National Park( SGNP). This letter indicates that Aarey Milk Colony was of a much larger area earlier, and that 2076 ha of land from Aarey Milk Colony was Transferred to SGNP in 1969. But the forest department claims that they do not have any land records related to Aarey Milk Colony.

The forest department, in 2015, had submitted a draft proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) to declare Aarey Milk Colony as an Eco Sensitive Zone. MMRCL moved an application with the MOEF and got 165 ha of land (1.65 sq km) from Aarey denotified from the Eco Sensitive Zone. The MOEF denotified an area of 1.65 sq km from the ESZ in December 2016. This decision has been challenged by Vanashakti in NGT through a different petition.

Already, a large part of Aarey Forest has been lost to different projects and construction activities. Citizens fear that with the entry of the Metro 3 carshed, better described as a railway service centre, the rest of this forest, spreading over 1259 ha, will be lost to construction activities for ever.

Mumbai City is already sinking because of the destruction of its water bodies, wetlands and mangroves. Loss of Forest area and destruction of the floodplain of the Mithi River in Aarey will lead to further destruction of the city and flooding in more new areas in Mumbai. Lakes , supplying drinking water to Mumbai are also located in Forest Areas. Vihar lake on the border of SGNP and Aarey.

The air quality of Mumbai will be seriously hit if 4000 full grown trees are removed from its last remaining green space,the Aarey forests. .

A Movement that started with the news of felling of 2298 trees has brought out more shocking details. MMRCL floated a tender document for felling of 3384 trees in Aarey Milk Colony in 2017. And number of trees that are in line for sacrifice is still increasing. Tribals have lost their homes and livelihood. Floodplain of Mithi River has been damaged and this city will finally lose 1.65 sq km of forest areas to construction activities if this Carshed is not shifted out of Aarey. Facts finding team of Citizens have also found letters that speak about Government granting 3 FSI on 33 ha (82.5 acres) of Aarey land. A design layout prepared by MMRCL for the Carshed area also has marked an area on 33 ha land for realestate prooject.

Citizens of Mumbai needs to decide what is more important for them. A peaceful and happy life in a place requires, Fresh Air, Good supply of Drinking water , accessible open spaces and flood free roads .

In a Costal city like Mumbai, when the entire world is suffering from the consequences of Global Warming a place like Aarey becomes extremely crucial for survival of the city.

Open Letter to Gautam Chaterjee

07th October, 2017

To,

Shri Gautam Chatterjee,

Hon’ble Chairman,

Maharashtra Real Estate Regulatory Authority,
3rd Floor, A-Wing, Slum Rehabilitation Authority,
Administrative Building, Anant Kanekar Marg,
Bandra (E), Mumbai 400 051

Dear Sir,

Sub: Non-Compliance and Non-adherence of RERA 2016 provisions by M/s. Runwal Developers in reference to their project ‘Runwal Elegante’

At the outset, we are in gratitude to you and your team on the immense work already executed under MahaRERA and thus we continue to reiterate our faith in your authority.

We would like to bring to your notice, the unscrupulous and ill-conceived actions by one M/s. Runwal Developers Builders having their registered office at Runwal and Omkar Esquare , 5thFloor, Eastern Express Highway, Sion (East), Mumbai – 400 022, (herein referred to as the ‘said developers’) who has several on-going projects in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra, but is not registering the same under MahaRERA, trying various disguises and camouflage by using words and terminology to his benefit, but which results in grave disadvantage to the innocent flat purchasers, thus defeating the very purpose of MahaRERA .

One of their projects is ‘Runwal Elegante’ registered as P 518 0000 3620           on the MahaRERA website, which actually comprises of Wing A, Wing B and Wing C,  bearing Survey No.41 (Part) and New CTS. No. 620/B , 620/C and 620/D admeasuring 21,023 sq.mtrs situate lying and being at Village Oshiwara, Near Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri (West), Mumbai – 400 058  (Herein referred to as “said premise”)

We would like to highlight some of the deceitful methods used by M/s. Runwal Developers to avoid registration of their project and thus cheating and deceiving the flat purchasers, inspite of the implementation of RERA 2016.

(1)         Unscrupulous and deceitful tactics employed to avoid registration of their projects:Even though MahaRERA is active and in force, in Maharashtra, M/s. Runwal Developers is forcing home buyers to take possession in the under- construction ‘said premise’ part of which is still under ‘Part Occupancy Certificate’. This building project is grossly incomplete having hardly any amenities ready, which are promised and agreed upon by the ‘said developers’, under the ‘Registered Agreements’ with flat – purchasers. Thus, the ‘said developer’ is stating white lies by implying that ‘Part Occupancy’ is as good as the completion certificate. By this, the ‘said developer’ is totally avoiding the registration of their full project under MahaRERA.

(2). The ‘said developer’, project, ‘Runwal Elegante’, in Andheri West comprises three Wings A, Wing B and Wing C. But the builder has registered only Wing A, terming it as ‘Tower A’, under MahaRERA, while conveniently showing Wing B and C as ‘Completed projects naming them as ‘Tower B and Tower C’. The ‘said developer’ has used the terms ‘Tower A, Tower B and Tower C instead of ‘Wing A, Wing B and Wing C’ thus clearly mis-leading MahaRERA.

Herein the builder has received ‘Part – Occupancy Certificate for Wing B and Wing C’, and thus using this as an excuse, the builder has registered only Wing A as Tower A, in MahaRERA and not registered Wing B and Wing C.

Once again please note that the builder is using the term ‘Tower’ instead of ‘Wing’ in the MahaRERA website. Hereto annexed and marked as Exhibit A is the copy of the RERA Registration.

(3). Thus the builder is breaking-up the project as ‘Phases’ and not registering the Wing B and Wing C under MahaRERA, while all three wings A , B and C are  actually one and the same building. Hereto annexed and marked as Exhibit B is the copy of the layout which shows common podium, lobby and sky-lounge which interconnects all the three wings. By this deceitful method, he is now stating that he has received ‘Occupation Certificate’, and has released mis-leading advertisements in leading newspapers and hoardings all over Mumbai, saying ‘Full Occupation Received’. Hereto annexed and marked as Exhibit C is the copy of the mis-leading advertisement in Bombay Times dated Saturday July 22, 2017.

(4). Using this, to his advantage, the ‘said developer’ is issuing letters to the innocent and helpless flat- purchasers saying that he has received ‘Occupation Certificate’ and that the flat- purchasers should take possession for fit-outs, habitation etc. and should therefore pay the balance amount under  consideration as per the ‘Registered Agreements’, between the ‘said developer’ and flat – purchasers.

This clearly exposes the wrongful methods employed by the ‘said developer’, and imposing undue pressure and duress onto the flat – purchaser to pay the full 100% of the consideration.

(5). Thus the Builder is clearly confusing flat purchasers and MahaRERA by assuming and considering Part Occupancy as Completion certificate and this avoiding the Registration of the building project altogether, and at the same time pressurizing the flat purchasers to pay additional money in a project which is nowhere near completion.

Thus, it is very clear that the ‘said developer’ has not received the Full Occupation Certificate and he has also not registered the project under MahaRERA.

(6). We hereby request you to make note of some exemplary Laws:

SEC. 1] THE GAZETTE OF INDIA EXTRAORDINARY 13

(4) The promoter shall— (b) be responsible to obtain the completion certificate or the occupancy certificate, or both, as applicable, from the relevant competent authority as per local laws or other laws for the time being in force and to make it available to the allottees individually or to the association of allottees, as the case may be; there is no provision of part OC in RERA 

SEC. 1] THE GAZETTE OF INDIA EXTRAORDINARY 5

(zd) "Member" means the member of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority appointed under section 21 and includes the Chairperson;

(ze) "notification" means a notification published in the Official Gazette and the expression "notify" shall be construed accordingly;

(zf) "occupancy certificate" means the occupancy certificate, or such other certificate by whatever name called, issued by the competent authority permitting occupation of any building, as provided under local laws, which has provision for civic infrastructure such as water, sanitation and electricity; ​

Thus the ‘said developer’, is clearly sticking to his bad old ways, even though MahaRERA makes it mandatory for him to register all under construction and ongoing projects’

(7). The ‘said developer’ is pressurizing the flat purchasers to pay the balance consideration amount, threatening them about ‘terminating their registered agreements and in many cases even ‘terminating the registered agreements’. By making false statements, releasing mis-leading advertisements, hiding crucial facts the ‘said developer’ is thus creating gross criminal and civil offences.

(8). Mr. Chatterjee, please take immediate cognizance of this dishonest and deceitful developer M/s. Runwal Developers, who is taking undue advantage of words and terms and thus confusing the MahaRERA authorities, flat- purchasers and the general public at large and acting against several provisions of MahaRERA and other laws in force.

We request you to take prompt, stringent and immediate action, investigate the matter and penalize M/s. Runwal Develoeprs.

Your actions always speak louder than your words and it’s time the builder lobby heard this especially Ms/ Runwal Developers, and complied with the MahaRERA provisions which are mandatory and compulsory.

Yours sincerely,

Sulaiman Bhimani

President Citizens Justice Forum
RTI and Human Rights Activist
93236 42081
sulaimanbhimani11@gmail.com

10

Two weeks ago, in Vile Parle East, there was a commotion on the street near where I was talking with two people I knew. It looked like two men were fighting. The two men I was with immediately rushed to intervene, while I watched from the sidelines.

What had happened was that a man had flagged a rickshaw to take his aged ill mother to a nearby hospital and the rickshaw driver refused to take them there. Furious and frustrated, the man beat the rickshaw guy mercilessly. The poor driver was paying for the collective refusal of several rickshaws to ferry him while his tired mother waited helplessly.

While this is a dramatic incident, it is quite common. Rickshaw drivers routinely refuse passengers to places they don't want to go to and accept rides only to select locations - for various reasons which basically boil down to convenience. They may not wish to go out of their area, or they may want to avoid areas with bad roads, or very commonly, they want to avoid places where they will end up at a rickshaw stand after dropping off passengers (at a rickshaw stand, they can't refuse any location a passenger wants to go to) and so on. It is a common frustration to be refused by many rickshaws before you get one.

Passengers are increasingly furious, but feel helpless, since rickshaws may be public transport, but them having no set rules or locations, it is difficult to police this kind of misconduct. And misconduct it is. Idea of a public vehicle is that it is available to all potential passengers indiscriminately. In reality, there are few places where you can easily get rickshaws for.

Yesterday, I carried Nisarga about half way to Andheri in blazing afternoon heat, because 27 rickshaws refused to go to Andheri Station. That is right Twenty Seven rickshaws refused point blank to go to Andheri Station from Vile Parle Subhash Road. When we did Nisarga's BERA Test last week, 13 rickshaws refused to travel from Vile Parle East Hanuman Road to Nanavati Hospital in the West. It is quite common to waste up to half an hour to get a rickshaw to an inconvenient place. I know a friend who was not able to travel from Vile Parle East Nehru Road to Aarey Milk Colony after waiting for two full hours. Going from Borivli West - Yogi Nagar to Thakur Village Kandivli East or even the National Park is a big challenge.

This makes for a lot of angry people. Rickshaws will drive by empty but refuse to take passengers to places they don't like. These areas being relatively prosperous and busy, there is no dearth of passengers to quickly find another who wants to go to a place they like. On the other hand, this pretty much amounts to serious failure of public transport in some situations.

They charge us extra at night for the inconvenience (isolated areas don't have further fares after dropping passengers requiring a driving back to a suitable place), but whether it is day or night they don't actually take inconvenient fares. Then what are we paying for, and why?

Together with some friends, we have come up with several ideas as a beginning point for getting some accountability into an inconvenience that is fast escalating into unreliable public transport.

  1. Find out and publicize complaint numbers for rickshaw drivers who refuse passengers and file complaints.
  2. Try and get traffic officials to run stings for such rickshaw drivers or encourage citizens do them and publicize on a wider scale and demand that they are made to follow rules.
  3. Never ask if a rickshaw will take you to a certain location, but sit first, and then give directions. If the driver refuses, ask for his licence and note details and the rickshaw's registration. The practice of asking rickshaw drivers locations before boarding should be stopped completely. It would be good for them if their comfort could be accommodated, but unfortunately, this is resulting in many parts of the city being extremely difficult to find transport for.
  4. There needs to be something more that we can do, because none of this guarantee that the drivers will play fair. Find out, collaborate on ideas. Someone had suggested a boycott with people offering lifts in personal vehicles, but this is not so practical.
I am hoping you have some good ideas to add to this.