Call it the lackadaisical attitude of the Ludhiana municipal corporation (LMC) authorities or the vested interests of some employees due to which large chunks of government land have been encroached upon by politicians, their kin or by individuals who got the land on lease from the government.
This has not only allowed encroachers to rule the roost but has also caused major financial loss to the already cash-strapped civic body that could have collected funds by leasing the land. Besides, it has also encouraged other encroachers to ignore the notices of evacuation issued by the MC authorities on regular intervals.
A recent example is that of an approximate 1,000 square yards (2 kanal) area on the Rajpura Road belonging to MC Ludhiana that was originally leased out to washermen running a ‘dhobi ghat’ almost four decades ago.
But as the washermen moved out, the land was encroached upon by locals to establish their respective businesses. Interestingly, despite a branch of the MC sending details of encroachment upon MC property in 2000, the higher authorities failed to act.
Tracing the area’s history, it is said that the land was originally titled “nazool” (left by the Muslim community during partition in 1947), which was later transferred to the MC. Thereafter, almost five decades ago, MC gave the land on lease to washermen for `108 per month. However, in the 1980s, the washermen gradually stopped using the place, which was grabbed by encroachers to carry out commercial activities.
The current market value of the said land, which is titled “Dhobi Ghat encroachment Khasra No 909” is around `10 crore, and encroachers claim to be owners of the land.
Rohit Sabharwal, president of Council of RTI Activists, an NGO working for the cause of removal of encroachments from government land, recently wrote a letter to MC commissioner GK Singh and municipal town planner (MTP) Kamaljeet Kaur to look into the matter immediately and retrieve the government land.
He also procured the communication between various branches of MC over the said piece of land, under RTI.
Interestingly, despite having identified the land as one of those that have been encroached upon, the MC has failed to include it in the list of permanent encroachments submitted with the Punjab and Haryana high court as part of an ongoing litigation over the matter.
A senior MC official, requesting anonymity, said a large number of MC properties, which had been leased out, were listed in the registers which were in poor condition. “Some have been destroyed, torn apart and many are not legible, thus there is a need to computerise the records, which should have been done long ago,” he added