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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.

6

Contrary to the belief that the ever increasing attacks on doctors in India are isolated, much has to do with the deteriorating situation of law & order, crumbling public health infrastructure and evangelization of vigilantes.

According to the Indian Medical Association, 75% of doctors in India have faced violence. Although we don’t have any data for Maharashtra, from my experience, I could say almost every resident doctor in a Government hospital has either been abused or manhandled. The attacks are so frequent and intense, that BMC hospitals in Mumbai had hired a private security firm, Eagle Security a year ago. This security is apart from the police units stationed 24×7. And still doctors are facing some of the worst attacks. Previous UPA Gov’t passed Maharashtra Medicare Services Persons and Medicare Service Institution (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) in 2010. This law has been poorly implemented as the data speaks for itself. Even after constant assaults, not a single person was convicted in the last 2 years. Even though the imprisonment extends upto 3 years and the offence is non-bailable, the alleged attackers are bailed out within a day as it happened in Sion hospital after a Polio inflicted doctor was attacked 5 days ago.

The Cause

India spends only 1.4% of GDP on healthcare compared to 8.3% in US and 7.6% in UK. Even many African countries spend more on healthcare than India. As per World Health Statistics 2015, India’s per capita government expenditure on health in 2012 was a meagre $60, while the US spent $4,153. Central, State Governments and Municipal Corporations have evaded investing in healthcare for decades which has compounded the worsening of the situation. To make matters worse, Fadnavis led Government has actually reduced the health budget allocation for 2017-18 by ₹569 crores. The health budget of 2016-17 was in turn ₹1,308 crore less than in 2015-16. Maharashtra will also spend ₹900 crores less on nutrition schemes. Many ministers and spokesperson have repeatedly assured about increment in health budget, bu the reality is quite different. Public hospitals are constantly hit by shortage of medicines and staff. Patients being told to buy even IV and inhalational drugs in the casualty is a common sight, which obviously angers them. Resident doctors are at the front end of an inefficient, unjust and poorly funded public healthcare system.

IMA survey says 70% of attacks are due to relatives accompanying patients. Dozens of relatives, of which half are drunk accompany a patient in the casualty late at night. Even after constant complaints to the administration, this issue is never sorted out. Be it Dhule or Sion incident, every major assault was carried out by scores of relatives. On paper, only 1 relative is issued a visitor pass to be with the patient. As every other rule, this one lies in the dustbin too. One can’t expect a doctor to work properly who is under the constant threat of an assault. One can’t expect a surgeon to have a steady hand when he is perspiring due to fear.

Dilapidated infrastructure and horrible planning is the cornerstone of every Government project which is 10 times amplified in a public hospital. The X-ray room is situated almost 500 metres away from the casualty. There is always a shortage of wheelchairs and trolleys due to which, again, the junior doctors have to face the brunt, as they are the only ones present there. MRI, USG, CT scan appointments have a waiting period of months. Apart from the well-equipped trauma ward, every other ward has an issue. The resident doctors and interns do the job of class 4 employees due to lack of staff for tracing medical reports, carrying blood from blood bank, shifting patients to other ward. Many a times, I have personally trolleyed the patient to USG and X-ray. There is no clear distribution of duties among staff. Public frustration of this chaos is unleashed on doctors as we are the only ones they could identify.

Normally, only 2 or 3 resident doctors are present in the casualty at night. They are bound to provide only emergency care and diagnostics. Full treatment can only be issued after consulting with senior doctors. This process takes time which agitates patients. There is no counsellor to talk to patient. As the resident doctor has to take history, write notes, examine and provide emergency care; the not so important talking part takes the back seat. A faulty system like this, promotes more attacks on doctors. Not to mention, a resident doctor in a public hospital is overburdened. He/she normally works 14-18 hours a day with at least one 36 hours continuous shift once a week. In towns, such 36 hours shift is almost on every alternate day. Even a basic function like sleep becomes a privilege.

To avoid long queues in OPD, many patients come directly to casualty for instant treatment. Doctors can easily differentiate patients requiring an emergency or an elective care. Indian patients don’t accept oral drugs as they always expect IV drugs in a casualty. This delays the treatment of those who require urgent care. Most of them sit at home and visit the doctor only when the disease takes a severe turn. Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension can be easily managed by drugs, but due to non-compliance, patients come with severe complications requiring surgeries. OPDs managed by 6-8 doctors have 300-400 patients on a daily basis. Sion hospital itself caters to 20 lakh OPD patients annually. Despite all this, the Government isn’t interested in increasing the number of hospitals. Only 1 out of every 20 MBBS graduate gets a PG seat.

There is no fear of law among mobs assaulting healthcare professionals. Relatives of the arrested Dhule assaulters tried attacking a nursing staff outside the campus. A doctor in Sion hospital threatened of the same consequence of Dhule doctor if the patient doesn’t get well. A rural hospital ransacked in Sangli for an alleged delay in post-mortem. A casualty officer in Bhabha hospital, Bandra slapped. All within the past 24 hours, during the ongoing strike!

The Demand

Residents doctors are fed up with constant fake assurances and lack of proper implementation of current laws. Gov't keeps on repeating the same promises with a different date. The main demand revolves around providing improved security and limiting entry of relatives.

  • Appointment of more security and police personnel immediately
  • 2 pass system per patient
  • To start the installation work of effective alarm system in every casualty
  • To revoke all charges and action taken against resident doctors
  • Strengthening of 2010 law, no bail for accused for at least 3 months
  • Filing of FIR by the institution itself
  • To release funds to implement the law and appoint a brand ambassador to spread awareness for the safety and security of doctors
  • To enact a strict law to prevent trespassing in hospital
  • Formation of a vigilance team within 15 days
  • Formation of a legal cell withing 15 days

An Ortho resident doctor in Dhule was attacked on 12th March while the statewide strike started on 20th March. The violence was so brutal, that he had an orbital fracture and is feared to lose vision in his left eye permanently. The state Government remained dead silent for a week. In fact, doctors and interns in GMC, Dhule were threatened of dire consequences if they go on a leave. Fearing political pressure, the leave was called off in Dhule. On 18th March, after a helpless junior doctor was attacked in Sion hospital, 4,000 resident doctors decided enough is enough. Even after multiple meetings with Medical Education Minister, Girish Mahajan and Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, there is no visible improvement in the security as of now.

To make matters worse, CJ Manjula Chellur of Bombay High court said, “If doctors are so afraid that you will be assaulted then resign and sit at home. It is a shame on the profession if doctors go on strike like factory men. They are unfit to be doctors then.” This statement seeks of victim blaming, elitism and promotes violence against doctors. It’s a moral equivalent of saying, if women are afraid of rape then they should sit at home. Judiciary, Media and the Government are busy blaming doctors for everything that is wrong with our healthcare system.

The Present Status

As of now, the resident doctors of KEM, Sion, JJ, Solapur and Latur Government hospitals have got eviction notices and suspension of their degrees. According to resident doctors, water supply in PG hostel of KEM and Sion hospital was cut-off. MARD (Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors) has colluded with Girish Mahajan in breaking the unity of doctors by giving out fake statement of mass leave being called off. An utterly despicable tactic which is the hallmark of the current political discourse in the country. Media has played a disgusting role by siding with the Establishment and parroting their lies. No one is questioning the Gov't for their repeated fake assurances and rehashing their old promises with a different date. No primetime discussions on the dwindling health budget. Even when doctors join their duty again, this faulty health system will still persist.

Individual doctors of public hospitals and not MARD are involved in this protest. Although there is no official confirmation yet, MARD chapter in Mumbai has been dissolved. On 23rd March, more than 40,000 doctors of IMA & IDA joined in an indefinite strike by shutting down all OPD and elective services pan-Maharashtra. Dentists, interns, teaching staff, senior doctors, paramedical staff, nursing unions, class 4 employees in public hospitals are supporting this resistance. Medical Teachers Association has threatened mass resignations if security isn't improved within 48 hours. Over 10,000 doctors in 40 major hospitals except AIIMS, have gone on a mass casual leave in Delhi. Barring pseudo-scientific doctors union, everyone else is echoing #IssBaarAarYaPaar. As I write this article, a new union consisting of resident doctors, private practitioners, IMA members, lecturers, professors, SMOs, DNB doctors, ex-MARD members is being formed.

The emergency services in both private and public hospitals are still working due to senior doctors, nursing staff and interns. The healthcare system is affected, but we have tried our best to reduce the impact. IMA and resident doctors will evaluate about the leave after they get a written court order. Judiciary, netas, celebrities all get private security. All we ask for is improving safety in public hospitals.

The resistance continues.