In our effort to zero-in on the factors that aid encroachments, the key reason that emerged after a visit to the Sector-19 Sadar market at around 11am on Sunday was that no official cared to report on duty at least till 4 pm, even as vendors went about their business as a matter of routine.
Rule mandate that a subinspector with the Chandigarh municipal corporation and four labourers are to remain on duty from 11 am to 8 pm and keep the area free from encroachments. The HT team found that SI Jagmohan Singh was the officer posted in the market on Sunday.
Similarly, visits to markets in Sectors 15 and 17 found MC officials missing, but the encroachers present in numbers. Some vendors also told us in hushed voices that of ficials did take bribes to allow them to run their businesses.
Even in Sector-17, the team failed to spot any MC officials. HT learnt that KC Katoch was the officials deputed there.
However, a visit to the busiest market in Sector 22 showed that sub-inspector Avatar Singh Goria, along with his team, was on duty. He was seen resting under a tree, but on spotting the HT team, he started clearing passage of encroachments. Vendors too quietly heeded to his demands and picked up their wares with a smile, as if the exercise was well-rehearsed.
We did feel a little uneasy and suspected an understanding among the vendors and the officials. This belief was strengthened when just 45 minutes later, the vendors were back at their designated spots, selling clothes and other wares. Interestingly, HT saw no challans being issued, even though Goria was carrying a challan book.
A vendor, whose wares were taken away, told HT: “Sahib, ye sab natak hai, akhbaar walon ke samne, hum to paisa dete hain, 20-25 minutes me saman mil jayega,” (This is a charade before the jour nalists. We pay them and will get our things back in 20-25 minutes).” The SI Avatar Singh Goria told HT: “It is difficult to control the menace, but we are trying our best.”
Arvind Jain, president, Sector-22 Market Welfare Association, said: “MC of ficials inform vendors before they remove their wares. Vendors give money to MC officials to set up their illegal shops in the corridors and parking lots. Our many representations to the UT administration and the MC commissioner have all been in vain.”