Sunday, January 17, 2016

Fighting Encroachment!

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today”… Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States & probably the wisest of all & is well known for his wittiness too! His many quotes are proof that he can deliver a serious dosage, coating the same with humor. Yet here what he said is applicable to our very beloved PMC i.e. Pune Municipal Corporation, which usually adhere to later part of the quote means thinking to evade the responsibility, is best way to deal with it. I am referring about whatever has happened in very recent news about PMC’s anti encroachment squad; even the head of the squad itself has been beaten & injured seriously. Here many as usual will wonder what’s it to us, isn’t it a regular news or say drama as PMC keeps on doing such acts & again all is well scene is there immediately after the squad goes away from the spot! I think whatever has happened isn’t that simple as the person who was attacked is a very senior person in PMC & heads the entire anti encroachment division; attacking him means its attack on the entire system named PMC which is supposed to prevent every encroachment or say illegal structure in the city. And if in day light he is going to get beaten up by the citizen who are doing illegal things, one can imagine what will be situation on roads for the public!

Before we go to the root cause of encroachments lets see what has happened, Mr. Jagtap who heads anti encroachment squad of PMC which went to demolish a hotel on a land which in DP has been reserved for purpose of police station. This hotel is running since years & when the squad went there to demolish the same the owner as well his collogues attacked the squad which caused serious injuries to     Mr. Jagtap. Joke is there was police enforcement along but seems the attackers outnumbered them & the police ran away; yes this is what has been printed in major news papers! Well well, where has gone the “Sadrakshnay Khalanigrhanay” motto of police force & oath which policeman took, to stand besides justice while joining the force, is any common man will ask! But that’s separate topic of sharing, so let’s focus on cause of this incidence. For that we will have to understand the term encroachment & as its spread all around the city.

Many a people mix-up encroachment & illegal construction, so let’s first know what the difference is! Like every square is a rectangle in geometry; same way every encroachment is illegal construction or illegal act but not necessary every illegal construction meant encroachment! Anywhere in the city or outside city we have some definite rules to construct any structure; these rules not only defines how much to build on a particular piece of land but on which land what can be build & which land to be kept vacant that also has been defined. Illegal construction is anything which is done without obtaining proper permissions of the governing authority which in Pune is PMC. Encroachment is extending limits of the space defined or sanctioned & it includes building something on a land which in ownership of somebody else. For e.g. building something inside margins or roof terraces of a structure i.e. a space which is supposed to be left open or vacant. Or it can be a stall of vegetables on footpath which is public property or like the case in news paper where the concerned person has started a hotel on a land which is under ownership of PMC. Encroachment can be on private property also but then in that case the matter goes to police & then to civil court & doesn’t come under jurisdiction of PMC or local body. So at large we can say that encroachment is trying to use piece of land or space for personal or commercial purpose, which is for public use only! PMC has two separate departments, one is building control department, which deals with permissions for building construction & another is encroachment department which deals with encroachments specifically. Though job of building control department is to curb the encroachment chances in the beginning itself but once the structure is complete with occupancy certificate then the building permission department has little to do. So it’s the job of encroachment department to keep check on any such act which will misuse the purpose defined by building permission department. Then PMC also has land & estate department which is supposed to take care of all the properties which are not public properties i.e. roads & gardens but are in form of vacant lands which are in possession of PMC & their final use is awaited to get developed. For e.g. a plot which has reservation of play ground or hospital on it but the construction is yet to be started for various reasons, one of which may be no budget provision! If somebody illegally takes possession of such plot & starts using the plot for hotel or garage then that’ comes under jurisdiction of encroachment department.

Main thing is why can’t we make a system which will ensure minimum chances of encroachment, for e.g. to start with why can’t we properly fence or say make a compound wall strong enough to protect it from any illegal entrant? Also mark every reservation plot with a sign board as well there has to be a system with help of software like Goggle Earth which can keep all such lands in possession of Govt under twenty four hours survivelence! The so called property cell has to be strengthened with enough staffer in form of security services with weapons as all such properties of PMC. Then all the roads as well public properties now are under survivelnece of the CC TV, so we can use them for checking encroachment especially footpath encroachments as well commercial establishments using their spaces reserved for parking for other purposes. This shouldn’t be a monthly drive but form a squad ward wise & daily check system of same. This squad will visit every day certain number of properties especially the commercial & check up for the uses of the same, the main focus should be disturbance values due to such encroachment to the public at large. Best examples are, a hotel in parking lot or go-down of materials in side margin of the building, making obstruction to parking as well movements of the citizens around & within the building. Upload photographs of all such findings on PMC web site & make it interactive so people also can add the photographs because many a time immediately after the action taken the said encroachers start fresh is what we all have experienced. Another issue is reliability of such squad as most of the time they ignore the encroachment when it’s just start & then it becomes a habit & then it’s too late, this is what has happened in the latest case of beating up of         Mr. Jagtap. So like cancer its best to remove or cure the encroachment when it’s just start as that time only it’s easier to remove it from roots. Also role of building permission department is very much important as while giving occupation certificate to assure the building is in the way which has been sanctioned nothing more than that. And building permission dept also can keep a routine watch on use of the buildings they have given completion certificate. There has to be joint periodic meetings of all these depts of PMC which can help to share information regarding encroachments. Another aspect is Police interference as they bother least when asked to help to curb encroachment, may it be on govt or private property. A separate State Level, Anti Encroachment Force like State Reserve Police must be formed as encroachments is more dangerous than riots or floods, damaging millions of rupees revenues which could have come from various taxes as well causing distress to entire society!

Then there is another form of encroachment & that is usually neglected or conveniently ignored & its encroachment by the Govt or Govt bodies itself on public properties! We all have witnesses hundreds of PMT busses standing or parked right on the roads for whole night when they are of duty blocking most part of the road, those who travel by PMC main building road must have witnessed this! And then go to PMC ward offices or any Police Station, all the open space around the same is filled up by every possible junk from confiscated vehicles to debris, leaving no space for visitors. And then the gas pipe lines of Mahanagar Gas Nigam has been laid right on footpath of the bridges across the city just to save on costing to take it down from a tray & away from the footpath but in the process entire footpath of the bridge has become unusable, who cares! Recently there was a news in paper about a two wheeler rider bumped on the drainage pipes stacked right in the middle of the road & the poor fellow died in the accident; this was outcome of encroachment by PMC’s contractor for PMC drainage work on the public roads, as imagine what would have been reaction of PMC had any private person has stacked the pipes right in the middle of road?  Isn’t all such also becomes a type of encroachment on public areas by the govt itself; & what action concerned departments are taking about it? Every such encroachment needs to be curbed by the system & in time as well before anybody has to give his life for that!

Here there is one typical argument made by NGO’s as well so called political leaders that those who encroaches footpaths of public places, for e.g. pani-puriwala or vegetable vendor are poor people & if we refrain them from earning their daily meal they will turn towards crime, which will be a more negative thing; so let them do the business on road! Well good argument but with such logic every person in the country can break any law saying or else I will turn a criminal! Agreed everyone should have his right to earn his meal & sure doing business of any sort is good thing but we can make laws accordingly then. Fact is here if someone goes to ask permission for a stall then no govt body has any clear & easy to operate policy for hawkers or stalls for any business. This indeed is main reason of encroachment at rampant in the city as well all around. We need to form a very clear policy for any road side business & give instant clearance if the proposal is in proper form & for that we need to create spaces so that these people can make businesses which in a way are in support of the society in end. And at many places PMC has tried it but the so called encroachers are not ready to go to such places as they feel customers won’t come at such place, which are easy to lure on roads itself! And that why unless very strict action isn’t taken on the encroachments it will keep happening again & again is a naked truth.

Many will say considering the nexus of system & the encroachers, its impossible; well it’s possible & answer is right in Pune city! Those who have been to NDA road, they must be knowing there is entire NDA hill as well thousands of hectors of vacant land along Pashan lake & NDA road but do we see a single encroachment here? Because the land belongs to defense & no one mess up with those guys, such is the fear of law & enforcement! If the defense can keep their lands & roads free of encroachment why can’t other govt departments do it? The simple answer is lack of belongingness within the govt departments towards their own properties! It’s a naked truth that in our country, anything that belongs to govt is considered as public property so anyone is free to use it at his will as nobody will oppose it! Let’s understand encroachment is attitude & not just an act of impulse, it has to be cured with strict law enforcement but here the fear or respect whatever you call is missing from the mind of encroachers & that’s the biggest challenge in-front of PMC or any such governing system!

And then it’s not just PMC which is responsible for encroachment but every that person who buys or dine from an encroacher is equally part of it; so the cure of cancer named encroachment starts from us only. And it’s high time to start it or else today there is no room for a pedestrian on roads; tomorrow you won’t be able to enter in your own home as somebody may be having a stall right in-front of your entrance & you won’t dare to touch him, such will be the terror of encroachment. As where a PMC Anti Encroachment Squad Chief can get beaten up in day light on road, who cares for you & me! So wake up & act against encroachment is the only need of today if you don’t want to repent tomorrow!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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1 comment:

  1. I live in kothrud near the new DP road, also known as shrikant Thakare Road. On the said road, there is one construction carried out which is much ahead of the building line which is otherwise evidently seen. How do I go about ascertaining whether the same is indeed an encroachment?


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