Mumbai: Tribal man, Aarey Colony at loggerheads over land
Vanitha Pada resident, who sought permission to repair his house, alleges harassment by Aarey Colony CEO; latter says man encroaching on govt land
Jadhav stands next to his crumbling house
A member of the tribal community at Aarey Milk Colony and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the area are at loggerheads over the installation of solar lights in the locality. While the tribal man, Chandu Jadhav, has alleged that the CEO's office has barred it from even repairing his house, a source from the CEO's office dismissed the claims and said Jadhav has been illegally extending his residence on the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
The Vanitha Pada resident claims that on January 9 he had written a letter to the CEO, officers at the Aarey Police station as well as state minister and local MLA Ravindra Waikar seeking permission to repair his dilapidated house. In his letter Jadhav alleged that Aarey CEO Nathu Rathod had been harassing him and his family over his demands to repair his residence. The tribal man has threatened to fast unto death from January 26 if his demands are not addressed.
Speaking to mid-day, Jadhav said, "I have been living in this Colony for ages. My 800 sqft house has become rickety over time and it can collapse at any time. My only demand was that I be allowed to repair my house. But, responding to my letter, the CEO asked me to take down the solar lights I had installed in the area to ward off leopards and snakes. The CEO also wants me to remove some of my plants and fruit trees because they are, apparently, encroaching on government property. The lights have been installed on a path that is frequented by local school children. Given the leopard activity in the area and the number of snakes in this locality, the residents here feel safer knowing that the path is at least illuminated. The CEO seems to be deliberately targetting me, but he has turned a blind eye to all the illegal hutments across the Colony."
Solar lights that Chandu Jadhav has installed
Significantly, the CEO's office, in their response to Jadhav's demands had mentioned that since the area falls under the ESZ, it's also a No Development Zone, which means several permissions need to be sought before undertaking any construction activity. Speaking to mid-day, Rathod said, "The allegations made by Chandu Jadhav are completely baseless. Time and again our security team has found that Jadhav has illegally extended his house on government land. We won't allow any person to illegally encroach upon government property."
On being asked about orders to remove the solar lights and trees from the area, an official from the CEO's office said, "The area being under the ESZ, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) requires us to maintain a certain status quo, which means that no felling of trees can be allowed in that locality. Jadhav did not install the solar lights for the benefit of villagers. He installed it right outside his house for his own use, so his claims are false.
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