Fighting for greenery for almost 25 years, especially in the Aravali hills, Rajendera Prasad Balwan (51), Gurgaon’s conservator of forests, retired from service on Thursday.
The 1984-batch Haryana-cadre Indian Forest Services (IFS) officer, who faced 22 transfers during his tenure, took premature retirement.
His stint witnessed run-ins with the top brass of the state’s bureaucracy, the mining mafia and private developers over Aravali hills, that are spread over Gurgaon, Faridabad and Mewat. Excerpts from a chat with Sanjeev K. Ahuja
Why did you seek premature retirement now that the Aravali issue is at a conclusive stage in the Supreme Court?
Since being inducted in the forest department in 1984, I have been fighting the corrupt bureaucratic system to save greenery, especially in the Aravalis.
During this time, I found I was unable to do much due to government constraints. Two years back I decided to fight the corrupt system from outside, as a non-government person.
How will you fight the system with no powers?
I plan to create a forum of like-minded people — intellectuals, the media, lawyers and others who would work to save the Aravalis. I can file PILs (public interest litigations) and writs, which I would have been allowed to do when in service.
Do activities like deforestation and mining continue in the Aravalis?
Yes. The state government has not only turned a blind eye to them, but also promoted them. Lakhs of trees are cut down in September and March. In Mewat, people cut down lakhs of Musket (keekar) trees every year.
What will happen to the Aravalis now?
I have retired from service, but I continue to be a member of the (Supreme Court- appointed) CEC (Centrally Empowered Committee) in my personal capacity. I hope to continue in the capacity of a former IFS officer who is asked to submit his observations on the issue.
Why has there been a sudden increase in forest fires in the Aravalis in Gurgaon and Faridabad in the last 30-40 days?
The owners of farmhouses are trying to scare away leopards by setting fire to forests under the garb of forest fires that take place in summer.
A careful analysis of all the fire spots suggest them to be locations where leopards are likely to be present.