Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis combine loses no time to dismantle MVA legacy

Mumbai : Barely hours after they were sworn-in on June 30 evening, the new Chief Minister Eknath S. Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis indicated that they meant business.

One of the first major decisions was to strike down the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) proposal to construct the Mumbai Metro 3 car-shed in Kanjurmarg, instead of the lush green Aarey Colony where it was originally planned by Fadnavis during his tenure as the CM (2014-2019).

The Shinde-Fadnavis’ move, though anticipated, attracted howls of protest from greens, activists and even former CM Uddhav Thackeray who was like a godfather’ to Aarey Colony and his son ex-Minister Aditya Thackeray.

A sad Thackeray publicly appealed, with folded hands’ to Shinde-Fadnavis, not to bring back the Metro car-shed to Aarey Colony forests in the interests of Mumbai and the city’s environment, while Aditya urged the new regime not to vent their angst against the Thackerays on Mumbaikars.

Fadnavis responded with the right noises that he would respect’ Thackeray’s sentiments before taking any final decision and days later, uprooted the Additional Municipal Commissioner Ashwini Bhide to reinstate her as the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd.

(MMRCL) Managing Director.In October 2019, as the then MMRCL MD, Bhide often regarded as the mother-in-law’ of Mother Nature, had shocked the nation when Aarey Colony overnight got a massive haircut 2,141 trees were chopped off in barely 40 hours, or @1 tree/minute!Thackeray Jr., Congress workers, green groups and activists have been fuming and protesting at the new regime’s latest reversal, but Bhide is entrusted with the task of pushing through the contentious proposal.

After the MVA allies, Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party, had scuttled the Centre’s plans to construct the terminus for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project in the Bandra Kurla Complex, the Shinde-Fadnavis ministry took a relook at the much delayed mega-project.

They have resolved to build the Bullet Train terminus at the original intended BKC site and ordered the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to shut down and pack up its 2-year-old Covid Jumbo Field Hospital there within 2 months, by September.

In another jolt, the government has scrapped over 4,000 big and small water conservation projects in the state worth more than Rs 5,000 crore, designed to make the state drought-free’ by 2025.

However, in contrast, the government has decided to revive’ the “Jalyukt Shivar Project”, the pet scheme of Fadnavis when he was the CM, but which was struck down by the MVA.

The Thackeray regime had based its decision on an open enquiry into the project after the CAG expressed doubts about the JST’s effectiveness, and later a probe panel had submitted a report highlighting various irregularities in that scheme.

The government has also opted to bring back the Emergency Pension Scheme, introduced by Fadnavis in 2018, rewarding those who had undergone jail terms during the Emergency (1975-1977), considered a dark chapter in Indian history.

The MVA government had yanked off the EPS Fadnavis suspects it was done under pressure from the Congress which entitled a pension of between Rs 5000-Rs 10,000 depending on the period of imprisonment the beneficiary had undergone.

Shinde also struck down the decision cancelling direct election of village Sarpanches and Municipal Council Presidents – introduced in 2017 by Fadnavis, and which was removed by the Thackeray government in 2020.

These reversals or cancellations have taken place despite an assurance by the Shinde-Fadnavis government that they would refrain from dumping any policies, projects or schemes of the MVA, unless they are found to be absolutely inessential.

However, giving a minor concession, the three-week old government assured that it would review’ the MVA’s proposal to rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar’ and Osmanabad as Dharashiv’. The AIMIM has cried foul and the Nationalist Congress Party had dissociated itself from the original move.

Now, the Sena-NCP-Congress combine is worried that the axe could fall on several other mega projects it had launched during the 31-month-long MVA rule.

Of particular concern are the Rs 1,600-crore water desalination plant to make Mumbai self-sufficient in drinking water, and the ongoing Mumbai Coastal Road Project both intended to be show-pieces’ of the Shiv Sena ahead of the BMC elections.



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