Left with only two assistant town planners, the municipal corporation's drive against unauthorised encroachments in the city appears to have spluttered to a halt despite being given more time in May by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to raze the structures. With the next hearing on the matter coming up on September 9, time is fast running out for the civic body, which has not even decided when to resume the drive.
Earlier, MC commissioner Pradeep Kumar Agarwal had said notices had been sent to the encroachers by the assistant town planners and they had been told to conduct the drive in a phased manner. However, with many of them being eased out due to various lapses, the civic body now faces an acute shortage of these officials who are tasked with enforcing building bylaws.
Last June an assistant town planner (ATP) in Zone D, Rajinder Sharma, was transferred to Pathankot while another ATP, Harpreet Ghai of Zone A, was recently moved to Moga, in both cases for alleged irregularities. As if this were not bad enough, on August 12 an assistant town planner of Zone C, Banke Bihari, was relieved of duty after he was caught by vigilance bureau sleuths while taking a bribe.
With four slots vacant the civic body is now functioning with only two assistant town planners. One of them, Monica Anand, supervises Zones B and D while the other, Kamaljit Kaur, is posted at the MC headquarters.
The MC had identified 6,355 encroachments following the directions of the high court in a civil writ petition filed in 2003. The court had directed to take action against the encroachments in October 2008. Later, Council of RTI Activists president Rohit Sabharwal had filed the contempt in 2013 as all encroachments were not removed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official of the MC's building branch said the anti-encroachment drive might be delayed further suffer due to the current staff crunch.
When contacted, Kaur said: "Since May notices have already been issued to over 2,000 encroachers and the drive will be resumed in the coming days". However, most civic officials don't have even a vague idea when this will happen.