100 kilometres from Mumbai

Have you heard of a place called Nevrepada?

Chances are that you haven’t. Even I hadn’t heard of this place till I visited it about a month back. A visit that I think about even today, a visit that opened my eyes to realities I had only read about in newspapers or seen on TV. It is a visit I invite you to join me in as I write this post.

Nevrepada is a hamlet near Aghai Village in  Shahapur Taluka, Thane District, about a 100-odd kilometres from Mumbai. We drive down the Mumbai-Nashik Road and when we cross the dusty town of Shahapur, there is an underpass which takes us to Atgaon Station on the Mumbai-Kasara line. As we drive by Atgaon station, we see—with part horror and part bemusement—Tata Sumos, Traxs’ and an assortment of four wheelers stuffed with people outside the station. In addition to the people sitting inside the vehicles, some are seated on the luggage rack above these vehicles, while some are perched on the side ledge, calmly hanging on to the windows for dear life. That’s when we realise that these vehicles are probably the only mode of transport in the area.

Forest land

Driving on, we soon pass a board announcing that we are on the forest department’s land. The dried up brown earth sprouting dried up brown trees and shrubs is a forest? Is an occasional green tree enough for the area to be called a forest? If such a term as an arid forest exists, then this is the perfect illustration of that term.

We look around bleakly at the various shades of brown, hoping for some change in the landscape. This comes in the form of an ugly square building with an entrance board announcing it to be a retreat for some religious organisation. We pass more such plots earmarked for other religious organisations. Construction on forest land, we ask aloud? Would we soon be seeing other commercial establishments coming up here as well?

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