Dehradun: Uttarakhand is set to witness a demolition drive after an upcoming by-election through which Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is expected to re-enter the state assembly, ThePrint has learnt.
Dhami is contesting in the Champawat assembly constituency, which will go to the polls on 31 May. Despite the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the state elections held in February, the CM himself was defeated from his former constituency, Khatima — but was retained in his post amid much speculation.
Then, last month, BJP MLA Kailash Chandra Gahtori resigned from his Champawat seat so that Dhami could contest the by-election.
The district administrations of Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar District are making preparations to launch an “anti-encroachment drive” after the voting in Champawat, according to officials in the state government.
Officials told ThePrint that localities with “massive encroachments” are being identified as a part of a data collection exercise for anti-encroachment drives against them. Notices will be served to the houses and other buildings constructed “illegally” on government lands, they said.
Speaking to ThePrint, state urban development minister Premchand Aggarwal said, “The coming days will see an intensified anti-encroachment drive in Uttarakhand. We have to understand that encroachment has become a profession and people involved in it have taken it as their right. Increased bulldozer runs will be seen on identified encroached areas, while work to gather information about all land-grabbers is constantly going on.”
He added, “If it’s not resolved now, encroachment will take a cancerous shape. Our government’s aim is to wipe it out forever, while at the same time maintaining peace and law and order in the state.”
He further said, “We have to follow court orders as well. Several encroachments have to be cleared, abiding by the court directives. The government will not leave anything to chance. The bulldozer drive will go on till it’s over.”
‘Keeping strong legal safeguards’
The colonies that have been served notices thus far are mainly in the Haldwani municipal area in Nainital district, and Rudrapur in Udham Singh Nagar district.
These are the two most thickly populated cities of the state’s Kumaon division. According to officials, demolition drives will take place in these colonies next month after the by-election.
Drives are also planned in the Kashipur and Khatima municipal areas of Udham Singh Nagar, as well as several parts of Haridwar district.
Speaking to ThePrint, Udham Singh Nagar district magistrate Yugal Kishore Pant said, “Currently, we are focussing on freeing water reservoirs like ponds, lakes and other encroached public places. Nearly 251 public water reservoirs were identified under encroachment in the beginning of the year. Some major anti-encroachment drives will be taken up in residential areas after completing the legal formalities, which are in process. The idea is to keep strong legal safeguards in case land-grabbers seek judicial recourse.”
Pant added, “Most of the encroachments are in urban areas like the district headquarter, Rudrapur, and Khatima and Kashipur cities. Rudrapur will have a completely different look if the drive to clear government land is taken to its logical end.”
‘29 acres of encroached railway land’ in Haldwani
An official from the Nainital district administration said that the biggest anti-encroachment drive is awaited in Haldwani, where there are around 4500 houses allegedly constructed on 29 acres of encroached railway land.
The official, who did not wish to be named, said, “Although the matter is pending with the Nainital High Court, the state government, too, wants to avoid any controversy till the Champawat by-election. Encroachments by the land mafia are also being identified for major bulldozer runs in coming days.”
When contacted, Haldwani sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Manish Kumar said an anti-encroachment drive had been going on there for more than a month. However, the drive against the alleged encroachments on railway land — probably the biggest drive in the state — is delayed as the matter is pending in the high court, but will take off once this is cleared, he said.
He added, “The Nainital district administration has submitted its 30-day anti-encroachment drive plan for 29 acres of railway land after the court asked for it. Any action will be taken only after the matter is disposed of by the HC.”
The high court has already declined to stay demolition action on the basis of a petition filed by the residents of the allegedly encroached railway land. The next hearing is 11 May.
Speaking to ThePrint, Haridwar district magistrate Vinay Shankar Pandey said, “So far, most of the anti encroachment-drive was focussed against illegal constructions in the area and on the public recreational land encroached. It will be further intensified in the coming days, probably by the end of May or in June.”