Mass awareness is a must, not politicisation

The trouble with politicians entering into a mass movement is the inevitable politicisation of the issue. The Save Aarey campaign, that has been run by dedicated environmentalists and media for many months now to protect nearly 2,300 trees from being felled to make way for the Metro car shed, seems to have been hijacked by political parties, namely, Shiv Sena, Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP. The Congress, which has been reduced to a non-entity in the city, has thankfully not lent its voice to the “It’s My Campaign” brigade.

Admittedly, political awareness and intervention helps a mass movement more than anything else. For one, the right people get heard. For instance, until Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray paid a visit to Aarey last week, the chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis had no inclination to listen to people’s organisations. Once the younger Thackeray entered the fray, it became a matter of who will take credit for listening to the people. The CM has now appointed a panel to look into alternative spots for the car shed (see Page 1).

Ashish Shelar, the city’s BJP unit chief, said yesterday that it was his intervention that led to the CM’s decision to appoint a panel. Thackeray retorted saying it was he who pushed the CM to do so.

Be that as it may, it is the activists who must feel that this is only half the battle won. There are genuine concerns that still dog the Metro car shed project that is spread over 30 hectares of pristine forest, that is one of the last remaining green lungs in the city.

This campaign can be successful only if the people’s movement is supplemented by political action. The two cannot remain in uncommunicative silos. This is what the political class needs to realise before taking credit for something that citizens of Mumbai initiated.

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