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Mumbai: Days after a mutiny scalped the government in Maharashtra, former minister Aaditya Thackeray finds himself in a legal tangle over a protest against the new government’s move to allow a metro rail shed in the Aarey forest area in Mumbai. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has accused him of using “child labour” for the ‘Save Aarey’ protest, and given a notice to the Mumbai Police Commissioner to register a case. He had taken part in a protest yesterday and tweeted photographs that showed some children holding placards.The child rights panel wants “an Action Taken Report along with a copy of FIR and statements of the children” within three days.Aarey is a unique forest within our city. Uddhav Thackeray ji declared 808 acres of Aarey as Forest and the car shed must move out. Our human greed and lack of compassion cannot be allowed to destroy biodiversity in our city.— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 10, 2022Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi retweeted a copy of the notice and called it “a joke”.  She said the children were part of a citizens’ group and not participating in a protest by the Sena. They just wanted to meet Aaditya Thackeray, she said.What a joke! They were not part of Shiv Sena protests but citizens group. The children wanted to meet Shri @AUThackeray &he was appreciative of their interest in forest conservation!Is this a new form of intimidation to stop citizens from protesting?Is saving forests now a crime?— Priyanka Chaturvedi???????? (@priyankac19) July 11, 2022Aaditya Thackeray had got the decision to use Aarey area for the shed reversed when his father Uddhav Thackeray became chief minister in 2019. But a lot has changed over the past month. The Shiv Sena of the Thackerays has been pushed out of power, and the party’s rebel group of MLAs has formed a government with the BJP as partner.This new government led by Sena rebel Eknath Shinde has announced to go ahead with the project. And Aaditya Thackeray has since been attending, even leading, protests. The issue came up in 2019 when the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation sought the municipal corporation’s permission to fell trees at Aarey Colony in the 1,800-acre forested area. Environment activists led massive protests.The Shiv Sena opposed the plan even when it was a partner of the BJP in the 2014-19 government. The then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP, however, had said the area identified for the shed was not categorised as biodiversity or forest land. He’d reasoned that the metro rail service would reduce pollution anyway.But after forming a Shiv Sena-led government in 2019 with the Congress and NCP as partners, Uddhav Thackeray announced that the shed would be moved to Kanjurmarg. The government also declared Aarey a reserved forest.The BJP-led central government went to the Bombay High Court in 2020, saying the land belongs to its Salt Department. The High Court then halted the Aarey project.That’s where it stood before the BJP regained power in Maharashtra last month and the state government decided to shift back the proposed shed to Aarey, overruling Uddhav Thackeray’s decisions.

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