Tension prevailed in the Tripuri area on Tuesday morning as over 200 shopkeepers protested and stalled the municipal corporation’s anti-encroachment drive, despite heavy police force.
The anti-encroachment drive was conducted in compliance with a Punjab and Haryana high court order that directed the MC to clear footpaths of encroachments. The corporation is set to submit a compliance report before the court on January 15.
The heavy encroachments on the footpaths in the area have left the pedestrians at their wits’ end, besides causing traffic snarls. An MC team during its visit to Tripuri in December had urged the shopkeepers to voluntarily remove the encroachments within a week.
However, with the encroachments still in place, a joint team of MC officials and police reached Tripuri about 11 am on Tuesday and began removing encroachments on the footpaths.
While there was no resistance in the initial one hour due to police cover, a crowd started building up around noon. Soon, the shopkeepers gheraoed the MC’s JCB and staged a protest by sitting in front of it, bringing the drive to a halt.
MC’s joint commissioner Nazar Singh, along with other senior MC officials, tried to pacify the crowd, but in vain.
A shopkeeper said the sudden action by the MC staff was unwarranted as it did not give them sufficient time to remove encroachments.
On finding the situation going out of hand, the enforcement staff stopped the drive mid-way and left the area.
Later, an MC official, not wishing to be named, claimed that they had given the shopkeepers a one-day ultimatum to clear the encroachments. “We will revisit the area on Thursday and remove any remaining encroachments,” he added.
Drive bringing little respite
Despite MC’s efforts, shopkeepers seem to have a final say when it comes to encroachments. Just a few days after the MC conducted anti-encroachment drives at the bus stand, district court complex, Kali Devi temple, Mall Road, Leela Bhawan Chowk and Bhupindra Road, squatters have returned with their goods and articles blocking pathways and public spaces.
As such, the MC’s much-hyped drive is proving to be a damp squib.