The Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (Amul) is the only corporate entity on the green line so far. The iconic Amul girl is on hoardings saying, “Do not make them histree. Cut yellow (Butter), not greens.” K V Sridhar, founder and chief creative officer for Hyper Collective believes that Amul’s stand is a good move. “Good brands take a stand, whether it is protecting trees or favouring development. They can’t fence-sit anymore,” he adds.
The support has surprised activists. “Protest groups come up spontaneously; sometimes we don’t even know who is protesting where,” said Amrita Bhattacharjee, a representative of the Aarey conservation group. Formed in 2015, shortly after the site was selected for the metro shed, the group is an informal citizens’ collective. On social media, it is represented by college students and fresh graduates with aggressive handles, buzzing 24x7. “We are common citizens and have no network with celebrities. They have responded on their own to our social media
attempts,” she adds.
While celebrities have come out strongly, brands have not been as vocal except Amul. GCMMF says that Amul’s is a neutral and nuanced stand that should not be framed within a binary framework. “Those ads are topical. It is not Amul taking a stand, but depicting what is going on in the city,” said R S Sodhi, managing director, GCMMF.
However even a single brand standing shakily by their side is enough for the social media savvy band of conservationists. Several members from the group tweeted, “It’s so rare to see a big brand like @Amul_Coop standing against government for a cause.”
Forced to retaliate, city planners have stepped on to the social media minefield as well. Ashwini Bhide, the Mumbai Metro
Rail Corporation (MMRC) chief has been tweeting via her personal account, countering assertions made by celebrities and clarifying the stand on the project. Plus there are full page ads in mainline print publications and a short film on the benefits of the metro, with Amitabh Bachchan using his baritone to drive the message home. MMRC is the nodal agency for the Metro-line 3 project, which is a part of the larger Metro network.
The pro-Metro team has also launched a hashtag #AareyAikaNa, which in Marathi translates to ‘hey listen’. But the other side has been quick to push back with #AareyAiklaNa, which in Marathi translates to ‘yeah, we’ve heard you’. In the run-up to the state polls, the battle will get more shrill. But even if that is all that the conservationists gain from this battle, it would still be victory.