The Bombay High Court Wednesday pulled up the Maharashtra government for failing to come up with a rehabilitation plan for fishermen who will be affected by the state's coastal road project. A division bench of Chief Justice N H Patil and Justice N M Jamdar was hearing a petition filed by two fishing societies raising grievances against the coastal road project that proposes to connect the Marine Drive area in south Mumbai to suburban Kandivali.
In the last hearing, the court had directed the state fisheries commissioner to hold discussions with the representatives of the two petitioners-- Worli Koliwada Nakhwa and Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society. On Wednesday, government lawyer Purnima Kantharia submitted details of the meeting in the court following which the bench said that the government had still not come up with a rehabilitation plan for the affected persons.
"What is your (government) plan for the 700-odd fishermen families who will be affected by the project? What assistance will you give them? When the government has decided to start such a big project, then it is your job to rehabilitate the affected persons," Chief Justice Patil said. Kantharia told the court that fishing activities have not been prohibited and the fishermen can continue fishing but will have to do so four to seven nautical miles into the sea.
To this, Justice Jamdar said, "The construction activity will disturb the fishing activity." "We expected the government to come up with a substitute livelihood plan for the affected persons. The government must look after these persons. You (government) cannot work in this fashion," the judges said.
The bench posted the petition for further hearing on March 19, by when the government will have to tell the court about its rehabilitation plan. The petitioners claimed that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and state authorities did not conduct any public hearing, or consultations with the fisher-folk from the city before starting work on the proposed project. Once the road is constructed, it will take away their livelihood, they said in the petition.
(With inputs from agencies.)