The Amritsar municipal corporation authorities, which had deferred its muchhyped anti-encroachment drive by a day on Tuesday following a request by traders, finally launched it on Wednesday even as it appeared to be a sham exercise.
While a few days ago, the local bodies minister Anil Joshi had asserted that the encroachments dotting various nooks and crannies of the city would be dealt with an iron hand, the MC authorities finally approached the encroachers with ‘folded hands’.
The anti-encroachment team, which initiated the drive at around 11 am from Katra Jaimal Singh in the walled city, was led by municipal commissioner Pradeep Sabharwal, who could be seen urging the shopkeepers to remove the encroachments from the sidewalks in front of their shops.
However, within minutes of its initiation, the MC’s team decided to call it a day and returned to their office at the Town Hall, where the commissioner had an ‘urgent’ meeting to attend.
Within no time, it was back to square one at Katra Jaimal Singh and the encroachments were back in place a couple of hours later, putting to shame the MC’s claim of going strong against the encroachers, particularly the ones occupying the footpaths. “No wonder, Amritsar has gained the notoriety of being encroachers’ haven. It is useless blaming the shopkeepers when the MC itself does not care to keep the city encroachment-free,” said Brij Bedi, a social worker.
Observing that this scenario has prevailed in the city for the past many years, he attributed it to the lack of the will on the part of the officials concerned to act, besides absence of good governance. “The scenario can definitely change if the officials’ concerned make concentrated efforts in this regard,” he said.
Pointing out that the MC had divided the city into eight zones, he said, “The authorities should appoint an official of the level of an executive engineer to ensure that the encroachments in each zone are removed with an iron hand”.
Meanwhile, municipal commissioner Sabharwal said that the MC had initiated its antiencroachment drive, which would target the encroachments in the entire city, besides the ones near the Golden Temple.
“We had given the shopkeepers a day’s time to remove the encroachments outside their shops. The drive was conducted against those who had failed to do so,” he said and added that special teams have been constituted to deal with these encroachments.
Meanwhile, encroachments continue to eat up the sidewalks along the most frequented boulevards and marketplaces in the city.
Encroachments have virtually consumed the footpaths at Hukam Singh Road, Railway Link Road, Putlighar and Lawrence Road and Hall Bazaar, where vehicles and goods displayed by shopkeepers can be seen usurping the sidewalks.
Construction material can be seen dumped on the footpath opposite the office of ADC (D) near the district courts. “The other areas in the city too are not any better,” Bedi said.