| Residents on private forest land have decided not to pay any additional amount to the state government to regularize their flats. The decision was taken at a meeting in Mulund on 2nd December evening.
“Last week, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, while hearing one of the private forest land pleas, directed the court registry to appoint a three-judge bench to hear the matter. The appointment has been pending for 18 months. With the new directives, the bench will be formed soon,” said Prakash Paddikal, president Hillside Residents Welfare Association (HIRWA).
The private forest land issue has affected over 5 lakh middle class residents in Mulund, Nahur, parts of Thane, Ghodbunder Road, Borivli to Goregaon and Mahul in Chembur.
Residents are reluctant to pay the additional amount (net present value) as demanded by the government as they would not get the clear title to the land. “Under existing laws, there is no provision to transfer ownership of forest land. So even if we pay the full amount, we will not get freehold land,” said Paddikal.
Earlier, residents and builders were charged between Rs 6 and Rs 120 per sq-ft on the recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee set up by the Supreme Court. This was increased by 50%, taking the minimum amount to Rs 9 psf. The controversy arose after the government collected money to the tune of Rs 100 crore from residents and builders after declaring the private forest land as barren. This money was collected in 2010 but the state government failed to inform the Union ministry of environment and forests that it had decided to charge on the basis of the land’s classification as barren.
When it approached the MoEF for regularization of the constructions, the latter objected, saying the land could not be classified as barren as it adjoins the national park, a dense forest. The government was directed to reclassify the land and charge the NPV accordingly.