Demolitions in Ajmer, Rajasthan
(Ajmer (Rajasthan) PUCL takes up the issue of Demolitions; it has written the following letter to the Chairperson of State Human Rights Commission at Jaipur, with copies to NHRC, PUCL Headquarters at New Delhi, and Rajasthan-PUCL at Jaipur).
It was in the month of March, 2000 that the Ajmer District Administration had undertaken a campaign of demolition of houses, shops, and other structures which had been constructed illegally and unauthorisedly in the outer area of the city popularly known as Baldevnagar and other structures on Makadwali and on Chorsiawas Roads. The demolition operation spread throughout the month of March. PUCL Ajmer unit received several complaints. We observed the situation for sometime and then ultimately decided to go in depth of the operation and conduct a survey to ascertain the factual and authentic information. We therefore, prepared and released a printed format to be filled in by the affected families. A copy of the format is attached herewith for perusal.
It took about a fortnight to complete the survey of the affected families. Around 300 forms were distributed by us for collection of data about the demolition operation. A good number of affected families were interviewed by us. Majority of the people reported that they had already represented their grievance. However, around 100 families responded to the questions of the format of PUCL, filled in the same and submitted to us along with desired and available copies of the documents. These are with the PUCL and if need be could be parted with fore ensuring proper relief.
The story of demolitions is the same and identical for all affected. There remains no scope for defending the act of demolitions. We have no reservation in expressing that there has been serious violation of human rights. Miseries, sorrows and deprivations have been showered on the families living there for around a decade and more.
An atmosphere of horror and terror was created. The day chosen for demolitions was " Shiva - Ratri" a festival occasion, which was a holiday. It appeared that civil liberties were suspended temporarily in the name of restoring civic governance. Houses, which were constructed brick by brick in the span of years with whatever savings these middle and lower middle class families had made, were turned into heap of ashes within moments by the bulldozers and J C B Machines. The children, the ladies and the aged shouted and cried with tears in their eyes but their voice could not be heard. They were helpless. They suffered mentally and financially. They suffered loss of thousands of rupees and in some cases it crossed a lakh mark. A dream which was fulfilled through their ceaseless hard work all these years was shattered. Their courage and confidence was broken and shaken. Hundreds of shops of small scale workers artisans (Carpenters, Barbers, electric works, etc) have been demolished. These persons have become jobless and there is no alternative arrangement available so far. The mental agony they faced can hardly be expressed in words. One of the suffering members told the PUCL team, we console each other by sharing grief and tears in our eyes. It would have been better if some enemy country had dropped a bomb over this area instead of undertaking demolition operations.
The PUCL team visited the affected area several times, interacted, interviewed and tried to ascertain the facts. Our findings on the demolition operation are given here under:
Legality of the existing/demolished structures: It is no denying a fact that entire Baldev Nagar and all constructions in nearby areas and on both the Makatwali and Chorsiavas Roads were/are unauthorized constructions not approved by UIT, Ajmer. The entire area is a notified scheme area of UIT Ajmer. But through Bhu-Mafias, other normal land transactions and through one Housing Co-operative Society- the area got developed in a period of about ten years. The fact was very much in the knowledge of UIT and the District Administration but at no stage any step was initiated to stop the illegal and unauthorized development and construction activities in this area. For Baldev Nagar - Jaya Nagar Housing Society is responsible. The society has been functioning through an Administrator, officially appointed by the joint Registrar of the Coop. Societies, Ajmer. The society had undertaken the task of regularisation of the colony. In a good number of cases, the amount has been deposited for conversions and for regularisation with the respective Departments. Notwithstanding that the demolition operation was undertaken. Some members had approached the courts and some had succeeded in getting the stay order in their favour. All details in respect of such persons have been shown separately.
The stand taken
by the residents before the Court includes:
1.They have been residing here since long.
2.The property has been purchased through registry.
3.The process of acquisition is not completed.
4.No notice has ever been served.
5.They have water and electric and telephone connection.
6.They are paying House Tax as well and in some cases land and building tax has also been paid.
The UIT countered
the claim saying:
1. That the land is acquired by Government and possession has been given to the UIT.
2. These are illegal possessions & illegal constructions.
3. Those who have acquired/usurped land have done so illegally.
4. The nature of land is Agriculture and its owner is the Government.
5. No conversion charges have been deposited by those having unauthorized occupation of land. 6. No building plan has been approved.
The Court has
1. That beyond dispute the land is agricultural;
2. No conversion done.
3. No plan approved from a competent officer.
Mere phone and Electricity Connection do not create the legality of any construction and that the land is the part of Panchsheel scheme of UIT.
But it is crystal clear that the administration has flagrantly flouted the State Government instructions issued from time to time in the matter of dealing with the encroachments. The orders dated 22 December 1999 and then 9th March 2000 explicitly provided for regularisation of construction made on agriculture land by taking conversion charges. But the Administration did not bother for that and did not start the process of conversion & regularisation of these constructions.
The view point of the Administration: A delegation of PUCL called on the Collector, Smt. Usha Sharma and discussed the whole issue. She asserted that all illegal constructions were demolished without any discrimination and that possession to as many as 152 persons of the plot which were owned by them after they deposited the auction price in the Trust, was given. Such persons as she reported had deposited a sum of Rs.2 Crores around two years back but the possession could not be given due to the fraudulent activities of Bhu-Mafias. She further highlighted that she had an imagination of Ajmer city - 20 years hence and accordingly she had taken certain strong steps which may affect the interests of many, but no harassment or excesses have been done to any individual. She expressed her readiness to rectify any excesses committed by Administration during demolition operations. She asserted that to an extent she had protected the human rights of those who despite deposit of plot price with the U I T were languishing for possession of plots for the last two years. There is no reason to disbelieve her statement. But the list of 152 persons whose possession of plots has been restored need be verified.
The PUCL clarifies
the points as under:
The problem is a universal one. In India too in every city this problem is there. There is a continuous influx of rural population to the urban centres in search of jobs. The house is the first necessity after their shifting to the city or to its surroundings in agglomeration area where they can live and rest after they put in days labour and render their services. In process illegal and unlawful tenements come up and many others join the race. The existing building regulations are largely unrealistic and encourage proliferation of privately developed and quite illegal settlements. The settlements in the area under dispute have come up in a passage of time not within a day or within months time, nothing was done for all these years and on one fine morning sense of legality was awaken which forced the administration to order the demolition squads to advance on the targeted areas. This is an inhuman act.
The PUCL, therefore,
(A) The responsible officers for committing this in human act, be booked first departmentally and under criminal liability. This should include those of the officials under whose patronage these settlements were constructed. They should be severely dealt with.
(B) Regularization of the plots occupied by the families eligible for the same under the scheme and orders of the State Government should be done on priority basis. As the reports go there is no regular officer to the post of Secretary of U I T who could look into these matters on priority. This should be done urgently.
(C) Compensation should be given to those whose houses and shops have been demolished, notwithstanding their legal defense.
(D) Alternative shops should be allotted to those whose shops have been demolished so that they restore their livelihood.
(E) For future a permanent machinery be created in the notified areas so that no illegal settlements are allowed to come up. The machinery be equipped with powers and responsibilities and answerability.
(F) Zero points should be on some sound basis and on the basis of approved plan and not on any other criteria and should not be changed now and then.
(G) The names of Bhu-Mafias must be out on boards at public places so as to guide the public not to enter into any such transactions which may cost them financially and mentally very severely.
(H) Before undertaking any demolitions - Alternative resettlement schemes be made known through press.
(I) Notices about scheme area/ownership of land by Government should be posted / placed appropriate places in the areas prone to unlawful settlement & making it serious offence to occupy illegal possessions
View of Nagar Parishad: There has been a special session of Nagar Parishad to discuss the demolition and Zero point drive in the city. Outrightly the action of the Administration has been disapproved by Nagar Parishad Ajmer.
UIT Secretary and Other Officials Transferred: After demolitions when hue and cry reached its climax the Secretary of the UIT and other responsible officials have been transferred to some other places. This decision of the government does not provide relief to the suffering families. The responsibility should be fixed and guilty should be punished. The compensation money should be recovered from the dues payable to such officers who moved with malafides violating the State Governments orders.
A set of Press clippings, the news thereof fully verified by the PUCL team is attached herewith for your kind perusal and immediate necessary action into the matter. The rainy season has set in and these families are passing their days & nights under the open sky due to promised regularization not taking any shape so far. Urgent steps are needed to be taken up in the interest of humanity.
-- Anand Bhatnagar, O.P. Ray, D.L. Tripathi, R L Rao, Dr. Deepa Martins, Smt. Shashi Sharma (PUCL Team: DL Tripathi, Dr. Deepa Martins, Anand Bhatnagar, OP Ray, R L Rao, Mrs. Shashi Sharma, Divya Singhal, Meghna Sharma, Babu Lal Sharma, Mukesh Gupta, Tulsi Nanwani, RN Bairwa, Sukesh Khandelwal, Sukh Ram).
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