Fishermen of Mumbai have returned bribe of Rs. 6 crores given to them by Essel World.
The Gorai Machhimar Sahakari Sanstha is an Association of fishermen from Village Gorai, Borivali, Mumbai. Assisted by National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement they have been waging struggles with every wrongdoing. Dependent solely on sea for their survival members of the Association are completely different from their counterparts in other co-operative movements in urban Mumbai. Dressed in local attire ostensibly they appear dissimilar than their fellow countrymen. But their recent action catapults them ahead of most us. For last 16 years they are fighting for a government land admeasuring 750 acres not for themselves but for their beloved Government of Maharashtra. The Government of Maharashtra on the other hand is not only indifferent to their struggle but has joined hands with the land grabber’s for the ‘money power’ they wield.
It all started in 1998 when the 750 acres allegedly ‘private land’ was purchased by The Essel Infrastructures in a public auction for Rs. 25 lakhs i.e. 8 paise per sft. When Essel went for changing the land records in their name the revenue authority realized that it is a govt. land and the change in name cannot be done. Essel raised a dispute which reached Commissioner, Kokan Division, who too held that it is a govt. land and Essel cannot hold it. However, Shri Narayan Rane, the then Revenue Minister in an appeal before him granted the land to Essel, this time of course free of cost.
When fishermen of Gorai came to know about this, they raised a dispute before High Court in public interest litigation. Their contention was that the land in question is full of mangroves, a breeding ground for fish, environmentally precious and must be left in it’s virgin form under environmental considerations. The High Court held the contentions of fishermen as correct and reverted the land back to Govt. of Maharashtra. Essel, (assisted by Govt.) went to Supreme Court. Fishermen, who had never seen Delhi, too went there to cross swords with the mighty Essel. The matter dragged on till 2013.
Here came a twist in the story. Essel approached Gorai Machhimar’s erstwhile Chairman one Shri Noel Kini who was removed from the post of Chairman 6 months back with an offer to make a settlement. Shri Kini was lured into signing Consent Terms with Essel for payment of Rs. 2 crores to Machhimar Sanstha, Rs. 2 crores to Holy Maggy Church which is recorded in the Consent Terms. What is not recorded in the Consent Terms is another Rs. 2 crores in cash, which also is paid to Machhimar Sanstha.
The honest fisherfolks of Gorai are now back in Delhi before Supreme Court with a plea to Court to accept this Rs. 6 crores bounty, which includes Rs. 2 crores in cash and allow their original prayer amounting to ‘Land be given back to Govt.’
‘We don’t want this money as it will be a sin to accept it’ says Shri Alex Aitolya, the present Chairman of Machhimar Sanstha.
‘Neither Essel nor anybody can bribe us’ says Shri Joseph Colasco, a board member of Machhimar Sanstha.
‘The 750 acres land is valuable for environment and we shall not let it go’ says Shri Neville D’Souza, an Activist of Machhimar Sanstha.
In the mean time Essel is busy cutting mangroves, have already cleared a 15 acre stretch from the land. A FIR is already filed against Essel by Environment Ministry.
The struggle goes on.