No action against encroaching worship sites

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Old 18-Mar-2011
No action against encroaching worship sites

Mohali March 18:

More than four months since Punjab government gave the go ahead to Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) for removing two religious encroachments, the officials have not yet done anything about the matter and remain reluctant to rile any religious group.

The state government had also directed GMADA to work out an alternate site and relocate another religious structure that had encroached upon government land. While Gurdwara Jhiri Sahib in Sector 69 has encroached upon a public park measuring 1.91 acres, Shiv Mandir in Phase I has come up on 0.55 acre of encroached land and Gurdwara Sacha Dhan in Phase III B1 has illegally developed upon 2.27 acres of public land.

Mohali has 38 such structures that have encroached upon public land. The structures, which mushroomed in the area over the last decade, have encroached over 25 acres of prime land at various places in the city. Among these are four religious structures in Phase I, three in Phase III B1, five places of worship in Phase VI and three unauthorized structures each in Phase IX, Sectors 70 and 71.

In a meeting in October, it was decided that 14 religious encroachments, which were located on prime residential or commercial land, would be allotted new sites, some would be allowed to operate in the land already with them and the remaining land would be returned to GMADA for development.

The meeting was attended by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, Mohali deputy commissioner Parveen Kumar, erstwhile GMADA chief administrator Vivek Partap Singh, district planning board chairman Narinder Kumar Sharma and public health department chief engineer and senior engineer.

At the meeting, the three structures mentioned above had been identified for the first phase of the resumption process and site identification work had also commenced. It was also decided in a series of meetings conducted with the management of the gurdwara in Sector 69 that since the encroachment was on a public park of 14 acres, four acres would remain with the gurdwara.

Site identification work for gurdwara in Phase III B1 was commenced and a suitable site was located in Sector 70, which was to be allotted to the gurdwara management. However, owing to political pressure from the state government, who did not want to upset their vote-bank, the issue continues to hang fire and hardly any progress has been made to relocate or reclaim possession.

A senior GMADA official, on the condition of anonymity, said, ''The state government was caught in two minds on what to do with the religious encroachments. On one hand, they face the risk of alienating and angering their traditional vote-bank, while on the other, they risk losing out on prime land in the heart of the city due to the rampant encroachments.''

He added, ''Judging by the progress made so far, it seems unlikely that the state government would do anything anytime soon as state assembly elections are scheduled to be conducted early next year. Action would only be taken after the assembly elections.''

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