The forest official investigating the alleged destruction of mangroves by comedian-actor Kapil Sharma and 60 similar cases in SV Patel Nagar of Andheri (West), has been transferred.
The state government on Tuesday night transferred former assistant conservator of forest, state mangrove cell, Makarand Ghodke as a statistician at the office of the chief conservator of forest, Thane, reveals an order accessed by Hindustan Times.
In September, Ghodke had filed a report with the Mumbai suburban collector regarding destruction of mangroves by Sharma for illegal extension of his property.
On September 18, the Andheri tehsildar (revenue official) ensured that an FIR was filed against Sharma by Versova police under Environment Protection Act.
Ghodke had also identified illegal extensions made to 50-60 existing properties, besides dumping of garbage by some residents and others treating the area as their backyard, in violation of a 2005 Bombay high court (HC) order that banned constructions within 50m of the mangroves.
Objecting to the move, NGO Watchdog Foundation demanded an explanation from chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the state forest department on Wednesday as to why Ghodke needed to be transferred.
“In view of the high stakes involved with the likes of Kapil Sharma and other celebrities at fault in the matter, the transfer is clearly unjustified,” Godfrey Pimenta, trustee of the Foundation said, adding that the NGO will monitor the progress of the case using right to information (RTI) act. Officials from the state forest secretary’s office said the state mangrove cell had taken the decision.
However, mangrove cell officials refused to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, a state government official, on condition of anonymity, told HT that several posts in the mangrove cell had been reorganised with some designations being eliminated.
“Earlier mobile squads (field officers) were headed by range forest officers (RFO). To give promotional opportunities to RFOs, it was proposed that the ACF should be in charge of the mobile squad. However, owing to less number of ACFs in the state, the government decided that all the posts, responsible for anti-encroachments, was going to be downgraded,” the official said.
He said it was “an oversight” with Ghodke’s case and the matter would be discussed. “However, as of now, the officer has to take charge of his new designation.”
Ghodke had gotten 3,500 encroachments removed from mangrove areas in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, with some cases against local MPs and MLAs.