GUWAHATI, June 19 – As part of the ongoing eviction drive in the city, 60-odd structures – mostly hutments – were demolished from near the Silsako Beel by the side of the Express Highway at Borbari on Saturday.
Today the eviction drive had to be stopped due to inclement weather, Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner Dr J Balaji said.
“Only a few illegal structures remain in the area and those would be demolished within a few days. We want to take the eviction process to its logical conclusion by removing all the illegal occupants – most of which happen to be fresh cases of encroachment – and we also urge civil society to put pressure on those with vested interests who are opposing the legal process,” Dr Balaji said.
Meanwhile, some people staged a demonstration on the Express Highway today protesting the administration’s eviction drive. According to a press release from the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) which also participated in the demonstration, the people of the area prevented today’s eviction drive by staging a road blockade.
Pointing out that the eviction was targetting the illegal settlers only who did not have any sort of legal sanctity to uphold their claim of settlement, Dr Balaji said that the administration was verifying the claims of the aggrieved people before clearing encroachments.
“There are tribal people residing on hills for 25-30 years and we are not touching them as they can claim settlement there under the law. But we have to be firm in evicting all the illegal occupants encroaching on hills, forests and wetlands,” he said, adding that people were found to be constructing houses right within the beel eco-system at Silsako.
“These people even managed to construct a pucca road illegally. The administration cannot and should not remain blind to such blatant violations,” he said.
Interestingly, it was not just the poor or the homeless who are increasingly falling upon government land including forestland and wetland. Among the encroachers at Silasko was a theatre group which was constructing a concrete structure on a five-bigha plot in close vicinity to the beel.
“It is unfortunate that the educated and affluent should also be encroaching on a wetland like Silsako. We had given the Brindaban Theatre group – along with other encroachers – three days’ time to vacate the land on its own, failing which it would be demolished,” Dr Balaji said.
Aggressive illegal occupation on government land has become a disturbing trend in the city, with its hills, forests and wetlands bearing the brunt of the illegalities. A vested interest circle is also profiting from the development, and it is often found to be misguiding and inciting the people against eviction drives. Civic woes such as flash flood, waterlogging, ineffective drainage, etc., are largely attributable to encroachment on hills and wetlands.
“We urge the citizens to cooperate with the eviction process, as it is in the best interests of the city and its residents. If the current trend of encroachment is allowed to continue, Guwahati would soon be an unfit place to live in,” Dr Balaji said.
Dr Balaji also said that once the Silsako Beel was cleared of encroachments, the wetland would be developed and maintained as an eco-sensitive zone for which the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) was preparing a plan.