Pune Cantonment Board’s reply to RTI application says that the cantonment comes under the jurisdiction of the Maharashtra Tree Act. Was this Act thrown out of the window for the President?
At least 20 stalwart trees more than 100 years old and several other trees have been massacred to make way for the palatial post-retirement bungalow of President Pratibha Patil on 2,42,000 sq ft of prime land in Kirkee Cantonment in Pune, which skirts the Pune-Mumbai highway.
The green landscape before...
By its own admission to a RTI (Right to Information) query by noted Pune-based tree activist, Vinod Jain, the Pune Cantonment Board has specifically replied that, “The Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 applies to Pune Cantonment Board...”
Hence, says Maj Gen SCN Jatar, a prominent RTI activist of Pune who had fought tooth and nail when the Pune Cantonment Board decided to increase the FSI within its limits, “The prevailing law is clear that the felling of trees for the proposed residence of the President on her retirement should have had the approval of the Tree Officer. The Kirkee Cantonment Board should have obtained the permission either from the Tree Officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) or of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC). In the instant case, whoever cut the trees did not obtain any of the permissions as per law.”
On Monday, Col Suresh Patil (retd), Comm Ravindra Pathak and former naval officer Anup Awasthi ran from pillar to post to find out whether permission was given to fell these trees. “We came to know of the damage of the trees when Moneylife’s story on President grabbing the land went viral and we rushed to the spot with the media channels.” Finally, Mr Awasthi filed a RTI application with the Pune Municipal Corporation as well as the Pune Cantonment Board late Monday.
When trees were cut to make way for construction...
Col Patil states that Principal Director, Defence Estates is also responsible for not taking any action. He states, “Despite merciless tree cutting, there seems to have been no legal action taken. We are going to first question him about what kind of permission was given to fell the stalwart trees. Secondly, as per the law, the local military authority has to auction them officially and deposit the revenue in the treasury. Has it done that?”
According to Chapter I, Section 1 (2) of The Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 (as modified up to 3 November 2006), the Act “extends to the whole of the state of Maharashtra”. Hence, President Patil’s bungalow cannot be an exception even if it is on defence land, says Maj Gen Jatar.
The barren land and building that was once full of lush green cover...
The point is who will bell the cat?
• As per Chapter V (Restriction of Felling of Trees and Liability for Planting and Preservation of Trees), Section 8 (1), “On and after the date on which this Act is brought into force in any urban area, notwithstanding any custom, usage, contract or law for the time being in force, no person shall fell any tree or cause any tree to be felled in any land, whether of his ownership or otherwise, situated within that urban area, except with the previous permission of the Tree Officer”
• Section 21 of the Act reads, “[(1)] Whoever fells any tree or causes any tree to be felled in contravention of the provisions [of the Act] or without reasonable excuse fails to comply with any order issued or condition imposed [by the Tree Officer or the Tree Authority or voluntarily obstructs any member of the Tree Authority or the Tree Officer or any officers and servants subordinate to him in the discharge of their functions under this Act, shall, on conviction, be punished with the fine of not less than Rs1,000 which may extend up to Rs5,000 for every offence and also with imprisonment for a term of not less than one week, which may extend up to one year
• [(2)] The felling or causing of felling of each tree without the permission of the Tree Authority shall constitute a separate offence.]
• In a judgment in PIL 93 of 2009 dated 17 June 2009, the Bombay High Court has ruled, “…By way of ad interim order we direct the respondent municipal corporation not to permit felling/cutting the trees within the municipal limits of Pune Municipal Corporation without obtaining approval of this Court.”
(Vinita Deshmukh is a consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jet, Air India and Go Air have made changes to their frequent flyer programmes to benefit their flyers. For the frequent traveller, it is these perks that keep them loyal to a particular airline. Make the most out of these while it lasts
Various domestic airlines have been making changes to their frequent flyer programmes recently, and most of these are adding some more visible benefits for their flyers. To promote a loyal customer base, one low-cost carrier launched its own loyalty program. Let’s take a look at some of these new benefits on offer by various airlines.
Jet Airways Jet Privilege: Jet Airways’ loyalty program has over a million JP (Jet Privilege) members over the years. While they were on a cost-cutting spree most of last year, a lot of benefits begin to go off for frequent flyers. But it now looks like Jet Airways is trying to make up to them in bits and pieces.
Effective 25th March, Jet Airways has increased the number of miles one can earn on the domestic flights with Jet Airways. Earlier, all international flights used to earn 100% miles (based on distance) but domestic flights did not. So, if you are a frequent domestic traveller, now you can look forward to building the same mileage balances by flying Mumbai to Delhi or anywhere else the airline flies. Even on its sister airline Jet Konnect, all flights will now earn 75% miles. So, for a 705 miles flight from Mumbai to Delhi or back, you should see 705 miles in your frequent flyer account. Earlier, if you were on a very cheap fare, you could expect to get 142 miles at best! So, massive improvement has been accomplished in this department.
Not just that, the airline is offering a discount of 20% on redeeming their miles on Jet Airways’ and Jet Konnect domestic segments. This means, if it earlier cost 10,500 miles for an economy seat between Mumbai and Delhi, till 30th September, you can have these economy seats for 8,400 JP miles only. The limited time discount is also available on Business Class seating.
Air India Flying Returns: On the other hand, Air India’s program was being run like a bureaucratic fiefdom for so long. So, everyone was a member but the only way to become a privileged member over the years and get frequent flyer benefits was to know someone in the airline. The changes are stark. You can now hope to get benefits for being an honest frequent flyer, as well. If you fly 25,000 miles in a year, you become a Silver, Gold for 50,000 miles of flying and a member of the Maharaja Club if you fly 75,000 miles in a year. Benefits include excess baggage allowance and vouchers to upgrade you on flights, bringing the program in line with other frequent flyer programs.
Go Air Go Club: GoAir has recently entered the loyalty arena trying to get a bunch of loyal travellers, and has called it GoClub. The program is very simple. If you join GoClub on GoAir’s website, then you start earning points for every ticket you purchase directly from GoAir. In return, you’ll be able to get discount vouchers for further GoAir tickets, and get upgrades in GoAir’s version of their business class. You also get access to GoAir’s lounges at various airports across the country.
For the frequent traveller, it is these perks that keep them loyal to a particular airline. Make the most out of these while it lasts.