Are the authorities scared of politicians, devotees?, ask SGNP sources
SGNP sources say this is reason why no action has been taken against Balyog Sadanand Maharaj ashram inside Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary despite SC orders to demolish it
The Supreme Court had asked the Forest Department in May to take action against the illegal ashram at Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) in Vasai, as it violated several norms, but whether it will be demolished is the big question.
Sources from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) have told mid-day that alleged political interference and violence anticipated from the followers of Sadanand Maharaj, whose ashram it is, are preventing the action. SGNP authorities have already written to the police saying they will require a huge force to take action.
A source from SGNP said, "We have already written to the police department and concerned officials demanding a huge force to carry out the demolition. Officials from the Palghar collector office had also visited the area few weeks back, and in their correspondence with the Home and Forest Secretary, they had said that during demolition there is a possibility of violence by the followers of the ashram. There is also alleged political interference that is delaying the action."
SC direction to state
On May 7, the SC had directed the government of Maharashtra to demolish Balyog Shree Sadanand Maharaj Ashram in accordance with law, and inform the court on the next date of hearing. The court has also directed the state government to comply with orders within eight weeks. The matter is listed for hearing again today.
On May 17, mid-day had done a story (Maharashtra Forest department officials brace for action against illegal ashram), in which it was stated that the SC has asked the Forest Department to take action against the illegal ashram as it has severely violated norms, and the officials had started preparing a strategy for the drive. Sources from the department had told mid-day that carrying out demolition will not be an easy task, given the influence the ashram wields. It is also feared that if the action is initiated, supporters of the ashram might burn down the forest.
Debi Goenka, the executive trustee of Mumbai-based non-profit Conservation Action Trust and a petitioner in the case, said, "The reason authorities are not taking action against the illegal ashram despite orders from the SC, is because there seems to be a lot of political interference. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had also met Sadanand Baba last year whilst electioneering. Photos of the visit are in the public domain and one can understand why the illegal ashram has not been demolished despite the Supreme Court Order." Chief Minister Fadnavis was unavailable for comment.
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