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The most planned city?

Chandigarh may have the distinction of being the most planned city of the country,but its profile has been gradually undergoing a change.

Written by Khushboo Sandhu | Chandigarh | February 9, 2009 11:50:33 pm

Illegal,haphazard growth has ruined the image of Chandigarh. While a blame game between the Administration and the political parties has been on for a long time now,encroachments are taking a toll on the city’s infrastructure

Chandigarh may have the distinction of being the most planned city of the country,but its profile has been gradually undergoing a change. Le Corbusier’s masterpiece is now dotted with around 40 slums and colonies,more than 100 illegal religious places and numerous unauthorised markets.

The reasons for the haphazard growth vary from appeasement of the vote bank to a liberal rehabilitation policy. The Administration says the encroachments thrive because the offenders enjoy protection from politicians. The political parties,on the other hand,are of the view that the Administration should nip encroachments in the bud. While the blame game continues,the unchecked growth is taking a toll on the infrastructure of the city.

Slums and colonies
Chandigarh has seen an influx of migrant population since Day One because the city was built from scratch. One of the first slums came up in the 1950s near the construction site of Capitol Complex. The population of slums and colonies has since increased to around 3 lakh,though Corbusier had designed the city for a population of 5 lakh only.

A biometric survey by the UT Estate Office in 2006 has revealed that the slums occupy more than 150 acres of prime public land. There are 18 colonies that have been built on land that the Administration had acquired from villagers for various development projects.

The rehabilitation efforts of the Administration have not proven to be too effective. The first such scheme dates back to 1975 when the slum dwellers,who came to the city in the 1950s,were rehabilitated. Dadumajra and Ram Darbar were established in 1979 under the ‘Licensing of Tenements and Sites and Services in Chandigarh Scheme’ to shift the slums in Sectors 14 and 26.

Another rehabilitation policy was implemented in 1996 when 16,000 families were to be given tenements. According to the scheme,which got an extension in 2006,more than 23,000 one-room flats are being constructed. People who have come to the city till 2006 are eligible under the scheme. The cut-off year was 1996 earlier. The rehabilitation colonies that were established in Ram Darbar and Bapu Dham are again a hub of encroachments. Two to three-storey houses stand in place of the original one-room tenements. There is now demand to upgrade the infrastructure to carry the burden of the increased population.

Illegal construction has not spared the area near the Sukhna Lake either.

Religious places
More than 100 illegal religious places,encroaching upon government land,exist in the city. Demolition of these structures is a tough task due to the sentiments of the people involved. A recent example is the controversy that arose when an attempt was made to demolish a few rooms in the Santsar Gurdwara in Sector 38 (W).

While the drive turned violent with enforcement staff being pelted with stones,all political parties came out in support of the gurdwara management. Efforts are being made to get the area de-notified. There is a demand for regularisation of other illegal religious places too.

Markets
Markets for furniture,marble and eatables are flourishing on encroached land in different parts of the city without any check. A fire in one such illegal furniture market in Sector 53 recently saw the demand of rehabilitation being taken up.

Encroachments thrive within the authorised markets too. Corridors encroached by displaying goods or by ‘phariwallas’ selling their wares are a common sight. While the Municipal Corporation collects huge sums of money by issuing challans,it seems to have no effect on the offenders. The demand of providing licences to these phariwallas or allotting them booths has,meanwhile,resurfaced.

Votebank politics
With around 65 to 70 per cent people coming out to vote from the slums and colonies — as compared to around 35 to 40 per cent residents in the urban areas — they become an important vote bank. The election campaigns see all political parties rooting for their cause.

BSP convenor Harmohan Dhawan says: “Why does the Administration not check encroachments when these start surfacing? Now that so many people have settled down in these areas,it wants to hold demolition drives. The religious places should be recognised or relocated. Demolition is not the answer.”

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party,too,are unanimous when it comes to encroachments. The parties have been advocating regularisation of the illegal constructions that have come up in the rehabilitation colonies over the years. A recent example is Deep Complex,where almost 700 illegally built structures were given regular status.

Admn’s steps
The UT Administration has devised a new plan to check encroachments. Five nodal officers will be appointed to assess the situation. Designated inspectors deployed under them will submit a report on daily basis. A helpline number will be launched to involve public in reporting illegal constructions. And it has also been decided that strict action will be taken against the offenders.

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