Though the municipal corporation (MC) of Chandigarh conducted 50 drives against encroachment and collected nearly Rs 1.2 crore as fine in 2014, the authorities have singularly failed to curb the menace.
An equal number of drives were conducted in 2013, but the MC collected Rs 1.9 crore. Also, in 2014, the MC collected nearly Rs 31 lakh from the auction of unclaimed articles, but it failed to dither the encroachers.
Though additional commissioner Sarita Malik, who joined in June last year, has made efforts to break the nexus between enforcement staff and violators by transferring them regularly and conducting surprise checks, the menace has not only become a permanent fixture, but also continues to flourish with impunity.
Public places — be it the market corridors, roadside walkways or parking lots — continue to be gobbled up. The areas that are badly affected include Sectors 15, 17, 19, 20, 22 and 35.
One of the senior officers from the enforcement department said, “The staff informs encroachers well in advance before a drive is carried out and by the time the team reaches the spot, the area is clear.”
Speaking to HT, Malik said, “We are trying our best to control the menace by conducting drives.”
She, however, blamed inadequacies in the anti-encroachment bylaws which only prescribe a fine as minimal as Rs 500, even against offenders who repeat the crime.
“We have no powers to slap a punitive case against offenders,” she added.
She further said, “We have written to the union government to increase the fine amount from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000 and hope that it is approved. We are also trying amendment in the MC Act, so that the MC can have powers to register a case against violators. We also want that people should come forward to lodge complaint against encroachers.”
Though the issue of encroachments often figures in the MC meetings, no effective solution has come out so far.
Former mayor Subhash Chawla said, The problem of encroachment cannot be solved unless and until political outfits and its senior leaders stop siding encroachers for votes. Political patronage, indeed, is one of major reasons for the failure of campaigns against encroachment as local politicians treat the offenders as a potential vote bank.”
A possible solution
The need of the hour is make changes in the MC Act and give the civic body the power to register a case and issue a challan to the habitual offenders. The fine should be increased from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000.
At the same time, it is also the duty of the UT administration and the police to check the menace. The area councillors should not back the encroachers for votes. Unless and until the accountability of the officer concerned and the area inspector is fixed, the situation will not improve. Moreover, the MC officials on duty should be transferred regularly to other areas to stop corruption.
MC councillor from Sector 22 Pardeep Chhabra said, “The powers of enforcement should be delegated to the road and horticulture department. Most important, the police should play an important role to curb the menace and this will also lead to violators having the fear of police.”