Officials say political influence being used to pressure them to stop action against trespassers, encroachers at Aarey Milk Colony
Forest department officials removing the flag pole that was illegally installed
- The forest department has been taking strict action against those involved in trespassing
- Forest department officials have collected fines amounting to Rs 38,000
- Sources from forest depat said that some locals are trying to exert political pressure
The forest department has been taking strict action against those involved in trespassing on forest lands and encroachments in Aarey Milk Colony. In three days, forest department officials have collected fines amounting to Rs 38,000 for various offences. However, sources from the forest department told mid-day that some locals are trying to exert political pressure on the forest department staff to evade action.
On Tuesday (November 28) Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Western Wildlife Region, Mumbai) Dr V Clement Ben, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) Director and Conservator of Forest G Mallikarjun, Deputy Director of SGNP (south) Dr Revati Kulkarni Patil, Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Sudhir Sonawale and Range Forest Officer Narendra Muthe visited Aarey Milk Colony for night patrols. During their visit, action was taken against six vehicles illegally parked on forest land. A fine of R5,000 each was collected from the six vehicle owners while eight individuals were fined for trespassing and consuming liquor on forest land.
The officials also issued orders to take action against illegal encroachment on forest land at Gautam Nagar, where forest land had been turned into a playground and flag hoisting area, with paver blocks installed in one section. The flag hoisting post and paver blocks were removed by the forest department. However, some locals allegedly used political pressure on the forest department staff to stop them.
A source from the forest department said, “One professor who runs a local NGO has been opposing the action taken by the forest department staff where land belonging to the forest department was encroached upon by installing paver blocks in one section and making it a children’s play area. A local belonging to a political party has also been trying to pressure us using political influence. Our staff has politely told them that whatever action we have taken has been as per the law and we won't allow any form of encroachment on forest land. Action, as per law, will be taken against those who try to create obstacles for our work.”
ACF Sonawale, along with forest department personnel, conducted night patrolling in the area again on Saturday and further instructions were issued to take action against those involved in trespassing forest land.
Welcoming the move by the forest department, environmentalist Stalin D said, “Illegal slums have proliferated over the last decade inside Aarey forests. This is primarily due to the connivance of the Aarey administration officials and staff who have helped the menace to mushroom. Some politicians have extended their patronage to these encroachers with an eye on creating and maintaining vote banks. This is causing a stumbling block in the path of honest officials who are doing their duty by clearing the illegal structures. The tribals are the main people who are entitled to live in the forests and they need to be protected. All illegal encroachments must be removed despite the obstacles that come in the way. Aarey cannot be a buffet spread for the land-grabbers and the slum mafia.”
Amount collected in fines in three days