Around 600 slum dwellers from Mulund, on Tuesday, protested outside the Kurla tehsildar’s office demanding the construction of a boundary wall around the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Borivli to protect them from leopard attacks.
Sanjana Thorat, 6, was killed by a leopard at Shankar Tekdi, Mulund (west) on Monday.
Organised by Jhopadpatti Mahasangh, the protest comprised residents from Ganesh pada, Hanuman pada, Shankar Tekdi and Panchsheel Nagar located in Mulund (west) and live on the periphery of the national park.
Besides construction of a boundary wall and patrolling, protesters also demanded Rs5 lakh as compensation for Thorat’s family and a government job for one of her kin.
“The construction of a boundary wall will create a sense of security for residents living near the forest since the leopard will be unable to enter the settlements easily,” said Nilesh Jire, a resident of Shankar Tekdi.
Thorat’s death has also brought the issue of rehabilitation of protected encroachers living around SGNP in Mulund (west) to the fore. The residents have been reluctant to move into homes that will be offered in Chandivli under the state’s rehabilitation scheme fearing loss of livelihood. “We have been living here for over four decades. All of us are doing jobs in the neighbourhood. Even the women are working as maids in nearby homes. So, we fear losing our jobs once we shift to Chandivli,” said Rajesh Jadhav, 37, a daily wager.
Locals are also confused over which government agency will rehabilitate them. “Till 2000, we paid the suburban collector’s office for water, electricity and rent for our homes. But after 2001, the forest department asked us to make a one-time payment of Rs7,000 and provided domicile certificates needed for rehabilitation,” said Suresh Birade, a resident of Shankar Tekdi.
However, next week, forest officials will visit the encroached area along with the city survey officer to clear the confusion on land ownership. “Our officials will visit the slums around SGNP and show them the encroached areas with the help of maps,” said Sunil Limaye, director, SGNP.