Mumbai: Celebrity astrologer 'divines' possible foul play behind Aarey fire

Dec 07, 2018, 07:57 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar

Resident approaches Fadnavis and Union minister demanding thorough probe into cause of fire on the boundary of green belt

Mumbai: Celebrity astrologer 'divines' possible foul play behind Aarey fire
The inferno charred large swathes of green cover in Aarey Colony

Long after the massive forest fire near Aarey Colony was doused, it remains a burning issue for residents such as celebrity astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma. Divine intervention may have stopped the flames barely 50 metres from his society in Goregaon, but the inferno gutted 20 hectares of green cover and killed several animals.

It doesn't take powers of divination to figure out why Raj Kumar Sharma reached out to Maneka Gandhi for help. Forest fires may not be in the portfolio of the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, but she has been a fierce activist for animal welfare and environment conservation.
"Though there was no loss of human life, several animals were charred to death in the fire. Only a detailed probe will help to zero in on whether the fire was an accident or a pre-planned act," the astrologer told mid-day.

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The fire gutted several hectares of green cover and killed countless animals and birds sheltered there
The fire gutted several hectares of green cover and killed countless animals and birds sheltered there

Stopped close to his home
On Monday, when the fire broke out, Sharma watched in horror from his bungalow in Royal Hill housing society, near Film City, as the flames gutted several hectares of green cover in Aarey Colony, stopping just 50 metres short of his colony. He wrote to Gandhi, urging her to personally visit the site at the earliest possible, and pursue the state government for an impartial inquiry into the mishap. He also sent messages to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, expressing concern over the fire. "The CM assured me that he would look into the issue," said Sharma.

What about the animals?
The Goregaon resident said he reached out to Gandhi because she is sensitive to animal rights and environmental issues, adding that her commitment to these issues was clear from the way she did not hesitate to raise a red flag on her own government after the killing of tigress T1. "There is no smoke without fire; there must be a reason why everyone is saying the fire was lit deliberately. The state government has ordered a probe. However, since there was no loss of human life, there are chances that those with vested interests may try to turn the report in their favour.

Raj Kumar Sharma has written to Union Minister Maneka Gandhi to investigate the fire that proved deadly for many forest animals and birds
Raj Kumar Sharma has written to Union Minister Maneka Gandhi to investigate the fire that proved deadly for many forest animals and birds

But, what about the animals and birds who lost their lives? No one is talking about them. Hence, to ensure unbiased investigation in the case, especially keeping the environmental angle in mind, I contacted Maneka Gandhi," said Sharma, adding, "Stern action should be taken against the culprits, if the fire is proved to be a deliberate act." On Monday, the fire broke out from a plot owned by a private developer on the periphery of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The fire was prevented from spreading further in the forest thanks to the fire watchers and national park's team.

Locals have alleged that fire was deliberately started by land-grabbers who want to carry out construction on the land. Local MLA Sunil Prabhu, who had visited the spot, has also demanded an investigation into the fire. Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam yesterday conducted an inspection of the fire site, and ordered an inquiry into the disaster.

CM Devendra Fadnavis
CM Devendra Fadnavis

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Mumbai: Massive fire breaks out near Aarey Colony

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