In the past one year, the Chandigarh municipal corporation has held 50 anti-encroachment drives and collected `1.19 crore in penalty. Yet, there seems to be no permanent cure.
Encroachments remain in markets of Sectors 15, 19, 22, 27, 28 and Manimajra, and even the heart of the city, Sector 17. The information about raids and challans - ranging from `200 to `3,500 - was given in response to a question by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) councillor Malkiat Singh. The reply also stated that no challans were issued for illegal advertisement boards.
The issue looks set to rock the MC House meeting on Monday, though it hasn't helped much in the past. In a meeting in December last year, then Congress councillor (now mayor) Subhash Chawla had said in the House that the problem "cannot be solved unless and until political outfits and its senior leaders stop siding with encroachers for votes".
MC officials argue that they can only challan encroachers and do not have the power to register a case. MC joint commissioner Rajeev Gupta said, "After paying fine, encroachers return to their old ways. We urge the UT administration and the police department, too, to check the menace."
Mayor Chawla admitted that the situation "has gone from bad to worse". "We are regularly getting complaints from residents and market welfare associations. But we are short of manpower, vehicles, and there is acute shortage of enforcement inspectors," he said, reiterating his old argument that political outfits and councillors must refrain from siding with violators. He did not take names, though.
At present, there is staff strength of 49 to deal with the problem - two inspectors, 16 sub-inspectors, nine police personnel and 22 labourers. The enforcement wing has six vehicles and four drives are conducted every month.
BJP councillor Davesh Moudgil commented, "The issue has been raised and debated in the House several times, but nothing much has happened. Time has come to formulate a strict policy. The condition is so bad in the Sector-22 Shastri Market that in case of a fire, lives of hundreds would be at risk."
Arvind Jain, president of the Sector-22 market welfare association, said they had given representations to the UT administration and the MC commissioner several times, "but nothing has been done so far": "It's a big traffic hazard, and people cannot walk in the corridors. We have urged the authorities to transfer the enforcement department to the police as the civic body has failed to deal with the problem."