Citizens’ groups have objected to the state government’s decision to appoint a new chief executive officer (CEO) for Aarey Milk Colony, Goregaon.
On Friday, in a notification from the state to the Aarey administration, Gajanan Raut, the current dairy development officer (manager) who was also the CEO for the past one-and-half years, was asked to only execute his duties as manager, as Nathu Rathod, the dairy development officer at Nasik, was appointed to the CEO’s post.
An online petition started by members of non-profit organisation Aarey Conservation Group(ACG) and NGO Vanashakti on Saturday, asked chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to reinstate Raut. The petition garnered over 60 signatures till Saturday evening.
“It is shocking to see an honest officer losing his post abruptly despite his best efforts to protect Aarey,” said Stalin Dayanand, project director, Vanashakti.
Aarey residents too said the move was abrupt. “Raut was doing good work and residents were happy with him. It is strange that such a step was taken without prior notice,” said Biju Augustein, resident.
Over the past year, Raut removed more than 750 illegal settlements that had encroached into the green lung. He also implemented new policies for Aarey such as blocking the entry of all vehicles within its internal roads, installing artificial Ganesh idol immersion spots and planting more than 50,000 saplings with a survival rate of 80%.
An official from the state government said it was a routine decision to change the posts of dairy development officers across the state. “Raut is still very much a part of Aarey. Several posts have been rejigged across the state,” said the official.
ACG members said Raut’s post was sacrificed under political pressure. “He had issued notices to minister Ravindra Waikar for erecting unauthorised constructions,” said Mili Shetty, ACG member and citizen who started the petition. “Such officers need to be encouraged for being honest, upright and shouldn’t be penalised for doing their duty.”
Citizens took to social media portals such as Twitter and Facebook to tell the chief minister of their concerns. “There is a huge political conspiracy when it comes to Aarey,” said Ashoke Pandit, citizen-activist and filmmaker. “If the CM is trying to put an end to black money on one side, he needs to safeguard the posts of diligent officers at least.”