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Wednesday, 16 December 2015 01:04
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A lot more care needed, but land has to be cleared

Clearing illegal encroachments is never easy, so the Railways needed to be a lot more careful while clearing the Shakurbasti jhuggis in the national capital—there is confusion over whether the local authorities were part of the process—so as to avoid the unfortunate death of a child in the process; that, of course, is also why the court has come down heavily on the Railways. But while condemning the Railways for being heartless, it has to be kept in mind that several notices were given to residents over several months and, in fact, the Railways claims it had even paid the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) R11 crore to clear various jhuggis but very little happened after this—just 297 of 4,410 jhuggis have been removed in various areas. What also makes clearing encroachments an impossible task is that, in most cases, local politicians encourage this by, among others, facilitating the making of voter cards for squatters—in the event, a law-and-order situation invariably develops since, in any case, squatters are not looking to be resettled; in most such situations, the local authorities don’t even want to be part of the eviction process. The Railways, in any case, was in an unenviable situation since, if any deaths had occurred due to the jhuggis being so close to the tracks, it would have been held responsible.

 

With over 1,000 hectares of Railway land encroached, 60 of which is in Delhi, it is not surprising the Railways wanted to clear the land—while work on the Shakurbasti coaching terminal couldn’t take place in this particular instance, work on the ‘grade separator’ on the Ambala-Bathinda line got stalled due to encroachments in Amar Park Colony and Lawrence Road in Delhi. In other non-Railway cases, such as the Posco plant in Odisha, illegal occupation of state government land over the years ensured that the mega investment which would have provided thousands of jobs in the state had to be shelved. A lot more care needs to be taken while clearing encroachers, but this can take place only if there is no political protection for such activity, and if political parties don’t seek to make capital as they invariably do on such occasions. If political parties are going to continue to support encroachers, such activity will only increase. It is the Railways that is under fire today, it will be some other agency tomorrow.

 

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