Taking up the cause of city residents who were rendered roofless in the recent demolition drive initiated by the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation in Barewal, the Supreme Court lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party leader Harvinder Singh Phoolka stated that some houses were constructed on the land allotted by the panchayat to the village people almost 100 years ago.
Though there was no record with the people of the land allotted but the fact that people have lived there generation after generation authenticate their claims to an extent.
Some residents had submitted a complaint to the Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes, Chandigarh, that the land in question falls under village panchayat which was allotted by the panchayat almost 100 years ago.
The Commission had asked the Ludhiana DC in 2008 to inquire into the matter and a report submitted by the SDM concerned stated that the land belonged to SC families who had been living there for almost a century, thus MC cannot demolish or order evacuation of the residents.
He also pointed towards the issue of rehabilitation of the residents who had practically left on the roads following the demolition of their houses. “It is the duty of the government to provide a roof to every citizen and the families who have lost their houses include women and children also,” the lawyer turned politician said.
Referring to the above report, Phoolka said that the occupants whose houses had been demolished will have to fight their cases individually but he would provide assistance in the form of lawyers or advise to each one.
Further speaking on the issue of drugs in Punjab, Phoolka said that AAP was serious about combatting drugs in the state. “We will soon organise workshops wherein people will be given tips on breaking the connection between the demand and supply as curtailing the availability of drugs should be the first step,” added Phoolka.
Meanwhile, Ludhiana West MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu too has deplored the demolition drive, saying it was devoid of compassion for human sufferings.
“No one objects to removal of encroachments on public parks, roads and passages. But, there are other sites which are also being targeted under the drive where the alleged encroachers have been living for decades. For example, in Haibowal and Barewal the alleged encroachers have been living on village land for decades, which became a municipal property after these areas were brought within the municipal limits,” he claimed.
“Not providing alter native shelter to families being displaced is violation of directions of the Supreme Court. Ludhiana Municipal Corporation is evicting poor people and dispossessing them of their houses just to grab land and sell it off at high price. Such victims of anti-encroachment drives must first be given alternative accommodation under the government policy of giving houses to urban poor,” he said.
He said that all those dwellings which could be regularised must be done immediately. “The loss of households and family assets create huge financial and psychological pain to the affected parties. All those who have been unsettled during the drive must be rehabilitated,” Ashu said. Giving a political colour to the issue, he said that only those people were being targeted who did not support Akali-BJP candidates in the recent Lok Sabha elections.