Written by Pallavi Singhal
IT WAS six years ago that Panchkula Municipal Corporation gave an undertaking in the Punjab and Haryana High Court stating the community centre in Sector 4 will be vacated by 2016, but three years have passed since the deadline and the centre continues to be in the possession of the civic body. Although locals are allowed to use the space at the centre after paying a rent, they want it to be vacated as the office, the attendant rush and the choked road have become a daily nuisance.
K D Prabhakar, president of Residents Welfare Association (RWA), Sector 4, said, When MC had given an undertaking in Punjab and Haryana High Court, we had hoped it would renovate and repair the centre to suit the needs of residents. But instead, they renovated it and made an office on the land that belongs to us. We will call it encroachment. Things were different before 2014. But now they have taken a building on rent in Sector 14. Moreover, Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) allotted them a plot in Sector 3 in December 2013.
S K Nayar, president, Citizen Welfare Association, Panchkula, too, claims that the MC has occupied the public space illegally. They have opened their offices at a place that was meant for the convenience of people. It is constructed in almost all the sectors. There have been a number of instances when Sector 4 resident people preferred to book other community centres than Sector 4 citing the lack of space.
The community centre was built almost 25 years ago. Ever since, it has almost always been occupied by some authority or the other. HUDA allotted the centre to the Municipal Corporation when it came into being in 2001.
After being aggrieved for 12 and a half years, the RWA of Sector 4 finally filed an appeal in the high court in July 2013. It was only after the litigation that HUDA decided to allot land for the MC office in Sector 3 in December 2013.
In the wake of this case, the MC counsel filed an undertaking stating it will take two years for them to construct the building from the date of possession and thus they hoped that they would completely vacate the community centre by early 2016.
They also rented their current office in Sector 14 in 2014 but did not leave the community centre. The building of Sector 4 still houses the engineering department of MC. The plot that was allotted to them has seen no sign of development.
When contacted, MC Commissioner Rajesh Jogpal said he cannot comment on it, and would first need to get in touch with his legal department.
The president of Sector 4 RWA wrote a letter to MC in 2018, asking it to vacate the premises as was decided by the court. They have not received any reply yet. The RWA president said he could not file any new petition owing to his old age. He is 82 years old.
Many of the officials sitting in Sector 4 centre know nothing about the court case or the undertaking that was given by the MC. Some of them don t even know that they are occupying a community centre.
Residents complain that they are not only being shortchanged as they can t make optimal use of the centre, but the office with its attendant rush affects their daily life. Ritesh Goyal, a resident of Sector 4, who lives in front of the building, says that it has become impossible for the women of the house to sit in their own balconies as the office is always swarming with all kinds of people.
The narrow road is choked due to the large number of cars coming to the area because of the office. Another problem, she says, is the Vita booth at the edge of the MC office area, facing her home. People use it as a watering hole and in the mornings the residents wake up to empty bottles littered around the area. It doesn t look like the woes of the people will end anytime soon as the tender for the new MC building is still in the pipeline. Jogpal says it will take at least 18 months for the building to be constructed.