MUMBAI

State forms panel to probe illegal conversion of forests

Losing ground:The government has accused forest officials of issuing an NOC to shift a school and evict residents of Appa Pada in Malad.File Photo

Losing ground:The government has accused forest officials of issuing an NOC to shift a school and evict residents of Appa Pada in Malad.File Photo  

Forest Minister says local trustees usurped land with Mantralaya’s support

The State government has announced the formation of a 10-member panel to launch an investigation into the illegal conversion of forest land by the previous regime.

In the Upper House on Monday, Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the committee would look into allegations of local trustees usurping government land with ‘support of the State Secretariat’. The panel comprising members of the Upper House will table its report in the next session of the Assembly.

Mr. Mungantiwar said, “We want to probe if the State Secretariat had colluded with local trustees between 2006 and 2010 to encroach on the forest land.”

Documents forged

He said in 2006, a trust based in Malad pressured officials in the Mantralaya to direct forest officials to issue an NOC to shift a school and evict the residents of Appa Pada and rehabilitate them on a private land at Chandivali in Andheri.

Mr. Mungantiwar said the trust, which owned the school and residential quarters, forged the land records and submitted them to the Charity Commissioner. Mr. Mungantiwar said the encroachment was removed in 2006, but the court issued an order in 2010 to rehabilitate the school on a land in Andheri. However, he said, it turned out that the NoC was wrongly issued.

Mr. Mungantiwar said, “When the fraud came to light, we filed an affidavit in court on December 12, 2017. I suspended a forest official who issued the NOC. We will probe how the illegal conversion of forest land for the benefit of builders took place.”

Demand for SIT probe

Demanding a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) of Mumbai Police, Nationalist Congress Party MLA Vidya Chavan said, “This is not a one-off case. Such conversion of forest land in the heart of the financial capital is rampant.”

Ms Chavan said, “A local goon who had 17 cases registered against him had supported the trust in forging the documents. The NOC for the rehabilitation of the school on the Andheri plot was given by the previous State governments.”

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