Ten years after the Punjab and Haryana high court pulled up the municipal corporation (MC) for not following its directions to remove 6,355 encroachments across the city, the civic body has still not acted against majority of the encroachments.
This despite the fact that it has to file an action-taken report before the high court on Tuesday. Even in its latest anti-encroachment drive on January 31, the MC with the help of heavy police force removed only 11 of thousands of still-existing encroachments. These were removed in Bharti Colony, Daresi, Jawaddi and Ambedkar Nagar where residents alleged that MC officials adopted a pick-and-choose policy.
However, MC officials refuted these allegations. The MC had identified 6,355 encroachments following the directions of high court in a civil writ petition filed in 2003. Since then, the high court has repeatedly directed the MC to remove these encroachments.
The last hearing of this case was on November 28, 2013. But still, not much has changed on the encroachment front, as MC has failed to demolish illegal constructions in sensitive areas, including Talaab Bazaar and Pavitar Nagar, which were mentioned in the list submitted by the MC before high court in 2003. According to the MC, around 2,000 encroachments have been removed, while 3,200 were those, which were constructed when the areas concerned were not under the MC. But still, over a 1,000 encroachments remain to be removed.
"Though the MC got assistance of heavy police force to demolish the encroachments, they followed only pick-and-choose policy to remove encroachments on January 31. Instead of taking action against the big encroachments in Gur Mandi, Talaab Bazaar, Haibowal and other areas, they just do face-saving drives," said Rohit Sabharwal, who is a petitioner in a contempt petition of 2013 regarding encroachments.
"Over five years have elapsed since the first judgement of the high court in the matter of encroachments was pronounced on October 4, 2008. In the said judgement, the court had directed the MC to remove the encroachments prevailing on public properties within six months. Later in 2012 also, while giving directions in a contempt petition, directions already issued by the high court in the past were reiterated and further directions were also passed," Sabharwal said, adding that since 2008, around 4,000 encroachments had not been removed.
According to sources, over 20 shops were illegally built on an MC nullah in Talaab Bazaar area. On the other hand, shopkeepers of Talaab Bazaar claimed that the shops were part of a temple and should not be demolished. In December 2013, residents had opposed MC's anti-encroachment drive and pelted the MC teams with stones at Paviter Nagar.
MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu said, "It is the duty of government to provide shelters to those whose houses are being removed due to different reasons. Before removing the encroachments in Pavitar Nagar, the government should arrange for alternatives." MC assistant town planner (headquarters) Kamaljeet Kaur said, "We have prepared the reports which will be presented before the court on Tuesday. We are following the directions of the high court and other encroachments will be removed soon."