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Unfair Demolition

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It is the same old story. The administration allows people to encroach on public property by setting up small eateries and such-like, and undertakes demolition drives after the encroachers become dependent on their ‘micro-enterprises’ for their livelihood. In many cases, the demolition destroys not just the various stalls and ‘khokhas’, it puts an end to years of work put in by the ‘streetpreneur’.

It is true that the encroachers are liable for breaking the law, but their desperation to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow can be understood. What were the officials in charge of preventing the encroachment doing in the first place? Should not they also be held accountable and have their salaries docked and other action taken for the negligence? Oftentimes, many even collect ‘hafta’ from the vendors to look the other way and end up making considerable fortunes.

The ongoing demolition drive on the Dehradun-Mussoorie Road invites such questions. Should not the municipal and other authorities, as well as local public representatives, be taken to task for allowing the problem to acquire such dimensions? There is also a larger need for the administration to integrate the demand for such services in their master plans for the town. After all, the traffic flow on the road does not just comprise up-market tourists headed to Mussoorie. The vendors, stalls and eateries also serve locals, the less well off sections, school and college going students, courting couples, daily-wagers, etc.

Demand creates supply. It is clear that the stretch of road has the potential for income and employment generation. Such an asset cannot be allowed to go waste. It is the duty of the planners to devise a regulatory framework and establish properly designed vendor points for such services along the road. In fact, those who were already providing these services but in a haphazard way, could also be involved in the planning. It may be noted that in all the mega-projects involving urban infrastructure being established by the Modi Government across the country, vendor zones are an integral part.

The problem for the administration in Doon is that the present encroachments involve illegal occupation of land, ungainly and unsafe construction, offer impediment to traffic, etc. If, however, plots are licensed out at safe locations, the ‘streetpreneurs’ can be given their livelihood back, without causing concern to anyone and government retaining ownership of the land. But, are the politicians and the administration up to the task?