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Illegal colony grows, captures 65 acres in 40 years, gets power connection; UT admin says don’t know how

About 35 acres of the land belongs to the forest department and 30 acres to the Estate Office and engineering wing, UT Assistant Estate Officer, Harjeet Sandhu, said.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
May 3, 2022 10:37:19 am
About 35 acres of the land belongs to the forest department and 30 acres to the Estate Office and engineering wing, UT Assistant Estate Officer, Harjeet Sandhu, said.

AFTER THE demolition of Colony Number 4, the Chandigarh Administration may have reclaimed about 65 acres of land worth Rs 2,000 crore. However, who allowed the oldest slum colony to grow for forty years remains unanswered by the administration. The colony was razed by the administration on Sunday without any resistance, political or otherwise. The drive was unexpectedly smooth and calm.

When a car parked illegally in Chandigarh is towed away immediately, over 2,500 people set up their houses illegally and gradually on government land. The UT Estate Office remained a mute spectator to this for through four decades.

About 35 acres of the land belongs to the forest department and 30 acres to the Estate Office and engineering wing, UT Assistant Estate Officer, Harjeet Sandhu, said.

When asked why the slum was allowed to grow and whether the Estate Office does not check unauthorised dwellings, Sandhu stated, “I don’t know who allowed it. This colony is thirty to forty years old and I took charge just about six months back.”

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He added, “And we are not making them homeless. We are rehabilitating the homeless, giving them houses so that they start living in a better environment. We have rehabilitated them in Maloya, all those people who have the supporting documents.”

UT Adviser Dharam Pal said, “I think attempts were made [to remove the occupants] in the past but could not be done due to various reasons. Then the process of survey was carried out and the eligible were settled. Covid was also a deterrent. However, I wont be able to comment on why something wasn’t done in the past.”

Regardless of where they worked, Mohali or Panchkula, for many daily wage workers, residence has been the colonies of Chandigarh, where entry has been easy.

A former UT official stated that the slum grew with the the knowledge of the Estate Office, engineering wing and local political leaders. The residents were given an electricity connection, something that the official stated is mandated by the apex court.

“The power connection is mandated by the apex court but the fact is that the Estate Office officials and the engineering wing have been hand in glove with the help of some political workers from the colony itself, all this time. Several attempts to pull down the colony were made in the past but they all failed due to lack of political will and administrative decisions,” the official said.

Vinod Vashisht, convener, City Forum of Residents Welfare Organisations (CFORWO) said that the administration should take this demolition as a case study. “I feel that the administration should take it as a case study as to why for decades such illegal colonies and slums are first allowed to proliferate before pulling sudden brake, razing the same. Prima facie, this seems to be due to shorter tenure posting of UT’s executives who lack ownership to such decisions and political interests, lackadaisical approach followed by rehabilitation process for vote bank politics. Administration may study Singapore model of JTC and licensed dormitories for migrant and industrial workers strategically located all around as a support feed,” he said.

Documents continued to be made on addresses from ‘illegally occupied’ colony

The residents whose houses were demolished on Sunday asked why and how the government documents were made, when their colony was declared illegal. “People have their voter, Aadhar cards, driving licenses—all government documents, made here. Why did the government allow it in the first place when they had to demolish it? The only thing is that first the administration allows and then with one order, they declare it illegal,” said Rajinder, a now former resident.

Other slums with demolition on the cards

Chandigarh continues to accommodate several slums which may soon be demolished, officials said.

Of these, Sanjay Colony at Industrial Area Phase I and Kumhar Colony in sector 25 top the list. Several slums continue to come up in Sector 25 and grow each day.

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