The same RTI query by two activists to the Forest department has yielded two different responses. Asked for the documents of the transfer of revenue land to the Forest department from the Bombay Milk Scheme in 1969, the department has given different responses to two activists. While Stalin Dayanand from Vanashakti has received a response stating that the documents were lost in the Mantralaya fire, another activist Rajiv Datta has been told that there was no land transfer at all.
In his RTI query, Stalin had asked for a copy of letter and correspondences that show transfer of revenue land from the Bombay Milk Scheme to the National Park in 1969. Strangely, the department has responded that “the documents were destroyed when the Mantralaya building caught fire on June 21, 2016.” However there was no fire in the building last year and the major incident had occurred in 2012.
Datta’s RTI query seeks to inspect files of land documents showing receipt and use of 2,076 hectares of revenue lands transferred to the Forest Department from the Bombay Milk Scheme from 1976 to 2017. In response, the Forest Department has said, “No land transfer has occurred between the Bombay Milk Scheme and the Forest Department from 1969 to 2017.”
Stalin’s response also mentions that copies of these documents could be available at the Collector’s office in Bandra. However, even after several visits to the office, he has failed to get a response, Stalin claims. “The different forest departments and the Collector’s office had been stonewalling my RTI for over a month now,” said Stalin.
However, a document submitted by Stalin in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in February this year revealed that 2,076 hectares of revenue land was transferred from the Bombay Milk Scheme to the Forest Department. The document was also procured through RTI from the Forest Department.
The activists believe that the procurement of these documents will help them prove that Aarey Milk Colony is a part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and thus a forest land. Vanashakti is currently fighting a legal battle in the NGT to notify the area as an ecosensitive zone to prevent further development there.