New Delhi: Nearly half of Delhi’s 62 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators have complained to Lieutenant Governor (L-G) V.K. Saxena about “encroachments by land-grabbing mafia” in their constituencies, and the latter has promised them “swift and strict action at the earliest, ThePrint has learnt.
The development could mean more demolition drives in a city where they have been the subject of blazing political rows.
An official in the L-G Secretariat said on the condition of anonymity that as many as 32 legislators of Delhi’s 70-member assembly gave written complaints to Saxena citing encroachments as a major problem in their areas. In a series of meetings they held with the L-G in June, the MLAs sought his help in tackling the issue, the official said.
Thirty of these 32 MLAs were from AAP and two from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the official.
The AAP has 62 MLAs in the House. The remaining eight are from the BJP.
The official told ThePrint that MLAs had said in their written complaints that there were, among other things, “Bangladeshi nationals” occupying parks in their constituencies, “land sharks” operating “animal barns” (livestock barns) to grab land, and “illegal car parking” in school compounds.
Anti-encroachment drives in Delhi come under the jurisdiction of the municipal corporation. Currently, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has no elected members because a law that was passed in April this year reunified the capital’s civic bodies, which necessitated the delimitation of wards.
The municipal corporation is currently headed by a special officer and a commissioner, both of whom report to the Union government.
Since the L-G acts as the administrative arm of the central government for Delhi, he has the power to issue directions in municipal affairs at least until civic polls are held and councillors elected, three senior officials in the L-G secretariat, Delhi government and municipal corporation said.
The development comes at a time when demolition drives — often undertaken as an anti-encroachment measure — have become a major political issue in Delhi, especially after the one carried out by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation at Jahangirpuri earlier this year.
In May, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal — the national convenor of the AAP — slammed the BJP’s “bulldozer politics” and asked his MLAs to protest against it even at the cost of being jailed.
Madan Lal, AAP’s Kasturba Nagar MLA and one of those who met the L-G in June, said the “larger point was to point out to him [Saxena] that encroachments happen in the first place because of immense corruption in the municipal corporation”.
“Currently, the municipal corporation is in his domain, so he’s the one who should be taking action,” he said.
Rohini MLA Vijender Gupta, who was one of the two BJP legislators who met the L-G over encroachments, said that AAP MLAs’ action of meeting the L-G “exposes Mr Kejriwal’s double-speak”.
“If encroachments are a major problem, then the AAP should not politicise [it],” he told ThePrint. “On the one hand, his MLAs are complaining about encroachment, and, on the other, he doesn’t just make it a political issue, he also asks his MLAs to stand against anti-encroachment drives.”
The official quoted above told ThePrint that MLAs claim there are encroachments in Mangolpuri, Burari, Narela, Bawana, Sultanpur Majra, Palam, Bijwasan, Sangam Vihar, Mehrauli, Mustafabad, Kondli, Trilokpuri, Gokalpuri, Seelampur, Vishwas Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Tilak Nagar, Hari Nagar, Janakpuri, Rithala, Karol Bagh, Greater Kailash, Rajouri Garden, Chandni Chowk, and Malviya Nagar.
The MLAs, the official said, told the L-G in writing that, in these areas, the “land mafia” was encroaching on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) lands, shops were spilling onto the streets, and there were illegal constructions by “unscrupulous persons”.
“The MLAs told the L-G that land sharks are running animal barns to encroach on land and [there was] unauthorised construction in heritage areas,” he added.
“Apart from these, used-car dealers and scrap dealers were using footpaths and pedestrian pathways as parking spaces,” he said, adding that several MLAs also complained that agricultural land was being used illegally for residential purposes in some places.
The official also quoted MLAs as claiming that parks were being encroached on by slums in some areas, and, in others, school complexes were being used as illegal parking lots. One legislator even claimed that the parks around Beri Wala Bagh “were being encroached [on] by illegal Bangladeshi” migrants, the official said.
A senior official in Delhi Raj Niwas — the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor — said on the condition of anonymity that “the L-G asked for their full cooperation in the anti-encroachment [push], which would also include a campaign to provide at least 2 metres of encroachment-free footpaths to the people of Delhi”.
Talking about the decision to approach the L-G, Somnath Bharti, another AAP MLA who met Saxena, said police, land and civic bodies are areas that come under his domain.
“Anti-encroachment drives in Delhi are done by the municipal corporation. So, it’s the L-G who has to look into this matter,” he added. “It’s not in the domain of the elected government. That’s why we took the issue to him.”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)