In 1954,Chande Lal Saini was made caretaker of nearly two acres of land in Jangpuras B-block by the Indian Christian Cemetery Committee (ICCC) which claimed to be its owner. Saini was reportedly told by the committee that he could use the land to run a nursery.
He set up shop and started Glorious Nursery,which over the years became a Jangpura landmark.
On April 21,the nursery was demolished on the ground that Subhash Saini,Chande Lals son,was illegally occupying the land.
A case had been going on for years in a Delhi court to decide the real owner of the land.
Everyone from Saini,to the ICCC,to the Wakf Board had staked claim on it. The Wakf Board still has a signboard planted on the property.
It emerged,however,that the land belongs to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The state agencys special office for land protection reclaimed the land on Thursday by demolishing the nursery.
Even with a separate department that monitors properties that are lying vacant,the DDA has had a dismal record in protecting its own land from encroachment. But all that may change.
Around two months ago,the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Tejendra Khanna set up this separate office for land protection,headed by former Air Force officer N K Arora. Arora,an officer on special duty,has been asked to get back all DDA properties from illegal elements. He reports directly to the L-G.
As of now,there are approximately 6,000 cases pending on the illegal encroachment of DDA land. The total encroached area covers almost 2,000 acres. The land in question is the property of the government and is extremely valuable. Arora has been tasked with going through each case of illegal occupation, said Ranjan Mukherjee,officer on special duty to the L-G.
In case of Glorious Nursery,even residents of the area were unaware that the nearly two-acre nursery was illegal. Demolition done,the DDA is now building a wall around the property.
While Arora is tight-lipped about how he intends to tackle the scourge of encroachment,Ranjan Mukherjee said,To start with,reclaimed properties are being fenced to ward off encroachers and signages are being put up to indicate the land belongs to the DDA. There are laws in place to take action against trespassers and we are making it clear that those who occupy government land illegally are violating the law.
Mukherjee also said that Arora has been authorised by the L-G to hire private security if need be.
In the last two months,we have managed to reclaim land worth nearly Rs 25 crore. Six raids were carried out last month with great results. Now,we are eyeing larger tracts of land in areas such as Moti Nagar where nearly 30 to 40 acres of property are illegally occupied. Some of these properties are worth nearly Rs 200 crore, an official said.
While none are willing to admit on record,the general opinion is the L-G was frustrated with DDAs incompetence in protecting its own properties and hence decided to create a special office.