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With no concrete plan, agencies fail to check return of squatters in Delhi

The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act contains provisions to take stringent action against the owners of shops that are caught for having built illegal extensions, blocking public passage, and causing pollution.

delhi Updated: May 16, 2018 23:42 IST
Vibha Sharma and Soumya Pillai
Vibha Sharma and Soumya Pillai
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi,Delhi news,Delhi squatters
EDMC officials remove encroachments and demolishes some shops at Mangal Bazar in Laxmi Nagar, New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

Nineteen days and at least 250 anti-encroachment drives later, civic agencies in the Capital have failed to cancel the licence of even a single commercial establishment for intruding on public spaces to carry out its business, municipal officials said.

The officials,who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the Supreme Court-monitored anti-encroachment effort, claim they are helpless. A lack of legal provisions and shortage of sufficient staff have prevented them from preventing the return of squatters . And even where a legal provision is available -- for instance, to take action against illegal permanent structures -- the civic agencies’ efforts to deal with the problem have been marked by laxity.

The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act contains provisions to take stringent action against the owners of shops that are caught for having built illegal extensions, blocking public passage, and causing pollution.

But the enforcement teams have only seized goods and demolished portions of some of the shops instead of cancelling licenses. Even now, shops are found to have laid out extensions such as display items, mannequins, and eating zones outside their prescribed boundaries. When the enforcement teams revisit, these shop owners pull back their items.

Forty eateries and food trucks have been sealed by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation after they were caught again in the last five days for such violations. No such action has been taken for repeat offenders in other parts of the city. On stretches such as Sri Aurobindo Marg, Vikas Marg, RK Puram, New and Old Delhi Railway stations, the civic agencies have carried out repeated drives only to seen encroachers return.

For illegally parked vehicles, the Delhi Municipal Act prescribes higher fines than the Motor Vehicle Act. But it does not have provisions to levy higher fines to deter repeat violations. “Though the high fine amount is a deterrent, it would yield better results with higher fines for repeat offences,” said Garima Bhatnagar, joint commissioner of police (traffic).

The Delhi HC has ordered that till the vending zones are assigned by municipalities and Town Vending Committees (TVCs) are not formed, these vendors cannot be evicted. The anti-encroachment squads can at best confiscate their goods.

“The law legalises vendor’s rights till they operate from designated vending zones. This will happen once the TVCs are formed. At present in our drives, we have seized their items and have pulled down portions of their shops, but there is no provision of stopping them from returning,” an NDMC official said on condition of anonymity

First Published: May 16, 2018 23:41 IST