As bulldozers rolled into Kant Enclave to demolish 14 structures, residents declared April 1 a ‘Black Day’, stating in a press release that “for the first time in India’s history, an authorised and licensed residential colony is being demolished”.
“People are being evicted and their houses are being destroyed, after having registered their sale deeds, paying stamp duty and other fees, getting their building plans approved, and paying house tax for many years. We feel betrayed as the authority which is supposed to protect us is ordering the demolition of our homes,” stated residents, adding that the demolition would lead to “steel and concrete rubble”, land that is “unsuitable for planting trees”, and create a “wasteland” suitable for “illicit activities”.
“Equality before the law requires that all construction on PLPA (Punjab Land Preservation Act) land receives the same treatment. Kant Enclave alone cannot be targeted for demolition,” stated residents.
For people still residing in the structures that remain standing in Kant Enclave, at least until July 31, the future is uncertain, but many admit that they have pinned their hopes on the amendment to the PLPA that was passed in the Vidhan Sabha in February, but remains in limbo following a stay on its implementation by the Supreme Court.
The aspect of PLPA amendment that pertains to Kant Enclave is the provision that “certain land”, including those falling in “final development plans”, any other “town improvement plans or schemes”, and “lands forming part of any public infrastructure”, be excluded from the ambit of the Act.
R Juneja, who purchased a plot in the locality 25 years ago, is among those relying on this amendment for relief.
“The Haryana government has passed the PLPA bill in the Vidhan Sabha, which excluded areas covered by approved development schemes. This is not anti-environment but rather a step in the direction of balancing the need to preserve forest cover with that of securing housing and other infrastructure for the people staying in Haryana,” he said.
Brigadier M B Anand, who also owns a house, said, “The Supreme Court, in its order, recognised that we have been deceived and stated that if we are not satisfied with the compensation on offer, we can file civil suits to get a fair value. I want to file a suit but how can any court decide the fair value of the house if the material evidence is destroyed? Our appeal is that the authorities not take any coercive action until the issue of fair compensation is settled.”
Environmentalists, meanwhile, expressed hope that the demolition was a sign that the Haryana government has realised the value of the Aravallis.
“We hope the government now realises that the Aravallis are the only remaining forests in South Haryana and need to be protected. We hope the government will withdraw the PLPA amendment bill, which is nothing but an attempt to repeal the PLPA in urban areas,” environmentalist Chetan Agarwal said.
“Kant Enclave was floated on Aravalli commonlands that was distributed to private interests through dubious revenue department orders. The rightful owner of the land is the panchayat and its successor, the Municipal Corporation Faridabad (MCF). The MCF must get this Aravalli common land back into public ownership,” he said.
The matter dates back to September 11, 2018, when the Supreme Court recognised the area as ‘forest’ and ordered demolition of structures built after 1992 by December 31.
This deadline had been extended to March 31, 2019, after residents approached the court, with the deadline being further extended to July 31 for those willing to submit an affidavit stating they would vacate the premises by that date.