Lavasa Update December 22, 2010
· Mumbai High Court Maintains Stop Work Order on Lavasa
· Widens Scope of Investigation also on Land Alienation, Displacement and Rehabilitation
· Relieves MoEF to take final decision till January 10, 2011
Today Honourable Judge B.H. Marlapalle of Mumbai High Court maintained the stay on Lavasa’s work progress which has been at halt since Nov. 25 after MoEF’s show- cause notice was issued to the project. High Court has also extended MoEF’s window period for field investigation and final decision making till January 10, 2011. Earlier MoEF was supposed to present its decision by the end of this month. High Court will next hear the case on January 27, 2011.
High Court has also suggested Government of Maharashtra to form a Committee under the leadership of Additional Chief Secretary to comment upon issues raised on ‘People’s Commission of Enquiry’ and investigate the matter related to displacement & Rehabilitation, transfer of ceiling land, forest land and land belonging to MKVDC; as well as study the impact of Lavasa on water supply to Pune city and irrigation to the downstream villages. In response to this Advocate General of the State of Maharashtra, Mr. Ravi Kadam, asked time from the court to clarify from the government. High Court has agreed on this and commented that whenever the Government report comes it will take it into consideration.
While hearing the writ petition filed by Lavasa against MoEF, the Honourable Judge pointed out that the controversy surrounding Lavasa does not merely involve environmental violations, but the project has also been challenged by the local villagers and social activists on grounds of land alienation. He referred to the cases where land admeasuring 609 hectares and given to the Katkari tribes under the Maharashtra Land Ceiling Act was taken back and allotted to the Lavasa project. Citing the report released in 2009 by the ‘People’s Commission of Enquiry’ formed under the banner of NAPM, Justice Marlapalle accepted that the court will also look into the allegation that the government has favoured Lavasa. He also ordered that all the petitions on the issue should be clubbed.
Justice B.H. Marlapalle joined the bench today after Justice D.K Deshmukh rescued himself from the hearing after the fact was brought to light in front of other counsels on Monday about his son being a lawyer in the firm advising Lavasa’s parent company, the Hindustan Construction Company.
The lawyer representing the Ministry of Environment and Forests told the High Court that the Google images of the alleged environment damage to the area due to the Lavasa project are of a serious nature and the Ministry cannot issue any directives without having done a detailed field investigation. In response to this, the HC has allowed the MoEF to keep its decision on hold till January 10, 2011.
Advocate Y P Singh, Kiran Bhalerao and Ashish Mehta representing NAPM and others, presented all facts related to Mr. Sharad Pawar (Union Minister and NCP chief), his daughter and Member of Parliament Ms. Supria Sule and son-in-law Sadanand Sule’s stakes in the Lavasa project. Mr. Singh highlighted that Lavasa Corporation has accessed huge favours from the Pawar family and the Maharashtra Government as the owner of HCC, Ajit Gulabchand is better known and close to Sharad Pawar. They also raised that the project should also be probed from corruption point of view.
Incidentally, while the Mumbai High Court acknowledged the violations of laws and issues of favouritism in the case of Lavasa, Sharad Pawar continued praising the project. In his interview with a prominent daily published yesterday, he again stated that “he or his daughter do not have any direct interest in the project” but goes on to say that “the project under dispute is very close to his heart”.
We, the people movements and activists from across the country, are aghast with Mr. Pawar’s interest in Lavasa and the corporates – especially when the common man (‘aam aadmi’) of this country is suffering due to sudden price rise of basic commodities while Mr. Pawar is canvassing for the corporates. What is required is that he takes his role assigned in the UPA government seriously and should discuss the issues of price rise and government’s response in this regard.
National Alliance of People’s Movement and others appreciate the Mumbai High Court’s decision to continue stop work order on Lavasa project and suggesting further detailed investigation to the state government. We believe that justice will win over corruption and favouritism.
Suniti SR Vishambhar Chaudhary Prasad Bagve
Dyaneshwar Shedge Thumabai Walhekar Rifat Mumtaz
NAPM is an alliance of leading people’s movements across the country which has been constantly highlighting the issues of environmental violations, issues of displacement & rehabilitation and the issues of social justice across the country
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