April 1, 2021 4:22:27 am
THE LOCAL administration in Halol taluka of Panchmahals on Wednesday demolished five of the 400 commercial-cum-residential structures located on the Pavagadh hill, close to the Kalika Mata temple, which is undergoing renovation and facelift as a part of the Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board projects.
On March 26, the administration had served an eviction notice asking the five families to vacate the structures they have occupied for over five decades within five days without any compensation in the offer.
The eviction notice was originally served in 2015 to all 400 families that make up a settlement on the hills of Pavagadh, a popular tourist spot due to the presence of the goddess Kali temple. The families make living selling temple offerings, imitation jewellery, food and provision items.
The five families that saw their structures being razed Wednesday, sell coconuts and other offerings to devotees visiting the Kalika Mata temple and have been living at the place for over 50 years.
“The act of the administration is inhuman especially in the time of such a pandemic when the cases are rising again. The notice was served to 400 families originally. We are all families, who settled here close to 50-60 years ago and the documentation for the same was done with the panchayats of that time. The district administration came in later and they tell us now that our agreements are invalid and this is government land,” Deepak, son of late Jagdish Giri Goswami whose shop-cum-residence was among the structures that were demolished.
Deepak said none of the families were well-to-do and now have been left without a roof over their heads. “We live here and earn our livelihood through devotees who visit the temple. They have not even offered us any compensation or rehabilitation. We are not opposed to the demolition but the way we have been rendered homeless.
They just came and told us that we need to vacate within two-three days because the ongoing construction needs this area to construct a space where yagnas will be performed in the new complex. We are happy to give our lands for it but they cannot throw us out like this. Carrying goods down from the hill is not a mean task that can be done within a few days. We tried our best to meet local leaders and have the demolition postponed, but no one came to our aid,” he said.
When contacted, AN Katara, Mamlatdar of Halol said the families were not entitled to compensation because their structures were “encroachment” on government land. “The families have not even asked us for any compensation or hold such talks with the administration. The notice was served in 2015 and they had enough time to move out. As of now, we have only demolished the five structures because space is needed for the construction work to take place smoothly and for easy movement of visitors and construction materials. The decision on demolition of the other structures will be taken later,” Katara said.
The Mamlatdar added the families would have to “make their own alternate arrangements” as the “administration had no provision for rehabilitating them”.
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