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45 “unauthorised” structures removed in mega demolition drive on Bet Dwarka island

The demolition drive has disrupted normal life on the island as the ferry service between Okha and Bet Dwarka, the main line of communication between mainland Devbhumi Dwarka and the island has remained “suspended” since Saturday.

Bet Dwarka island is around three kilometres off Okha town and is among Gujarat’s largest islands with human habitation. (Representational image/Express File)

CRACKING DOWN on unauthorised structures, the state government has undertaken a mega demolition drive in Bet Dwarka, an island off Okha coast in Devbhumi Dwarka district since Saturday, removing around 45 “encroachment” on government land and freeing around one lakh square feet of land by Monday evening.

The joint drive started on Saturday with the Okha municipality and the district administration of Devbhumi Dwarka demolishing structures in areas like Balapar, Abhyamata temple, Hanuman Dandi Road, Okha municipality ward office, Dhingeshwar Mahadev temple etc. Structures targeted included residential and commercial premises and religious ones and falling in the jurisdiction of Okha municipality, as well as the state government. Sources said that unauthorised structures are being removed from government wasteland and forest land also.

Bet Dwarka island is around three kilometres off Okha town and is among Gujarat’s largest islands with human habitation. The island has a population of around 10,000, majority of them Muslims. The island is known for Dwarkadhish Mukhya Mandir, a Lord Krishna shrine which is a major place of worship for Hindus. Parts of the island forms Ward No.5 of Okha municipality which the BJP, which has been ruling the civic body, won for the first time in the general election to that civic body in November last year.

The demolition drive has disrupted normal life on the island as the ferry service between Okha and Bet Dwarka, the main line of communication between mainland Devbhumi Dwarka and the island has remained “suspended” since Saturday. But police denied that they had ordered the private ferry boat operators to suspend their operators and added that they could have done that of their own volition.

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Repeated phone calls and text messages by The Indian Express to Okha municipality president Suresh Gohel and sub-divisional magistrate of Dwarka, PH Talsania did not elicit a repose. But superintendent of police of Devbhumi Dwarka, Nitish Pandey confirmed that the demolition drive began under police protection on Saturday. “Around 45 premises, including residential, commercial and others which were encroachment on government land have been demolished and cumulatively, around one lakh square feet land has been freed from encroachment,” Pandey told The Indian Express.

Sources in the Okha municipality said that structures targeted during the ongoing demolition drive included residence of a man who is an accused in the Khambhalia drug haul case of November 21 in which Devbhumi Dwarka police had seized around 60 kg of heroin and methamphetamine cumulatively worth around Rs250 crores in grey international market.

“All illegal structures removed so far were encroachment by the minority community. Around 15 of the structures removed include mazaars. A majority of them are located on the seacoast of the island,” the municipality sources said, adding the demolition drive is likely to continue for a few more days.

 

First published on: 04-10-2022 at 00:03 IST
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