Final phase of anti-encroachment drive begins in Faridabad's Khori village

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Chandigarh, Jul 14 (PTI) As the Supreme Court deadline to clear encroachments on forest land in Faridabad's Khori village nears, the civic authorities on Wednesday began the final phase of the demolition drive to remove the illegal structures.

Several teams had been deputed by the Faridabad Municipal Corporation to remove all the encroachments which over the years came up on the forest land spread over 172 acres, officials said.

There are around 10,000 residential structures in the Aravali forest area near the Khori village, which the apex court has ordered to remove.

In its June 7 order, the Supreme Court had also sought compliance report from state government officials after the removal of encroachments from the forest land near Lakarpur Khori village within six weeks.

Heavy earth-moving machinery and other equipment were pressed into service, the officials said. Over 2,000 police personnel had been deployed to maintain law and order during the drive, which is likely to take a few days and will be completed within the stipulated deadline set by the apex court, they said.

Police had heavily barricaded the entry and exit points to the village.

Before launching the drive on Wednesday, authorities had earlier this month razed all structures at the entry and exit points to clear the path so that heavy vehicles and earth-moving machines could easily reach and remove all the encroachments in the area, they said.

However, the drive on Wednesday had to be suspended for sometime due to rains.

In an earlier drive carried out last month, a few residential structures were partly demolished before being razed to the ground later.

As the authorities began pulling down the structures, many residents who had been living in the slum dwellings for years, said the government should rehabilitate them.

A middle-aged man, who originally hails from Aligarh, while interacting with reporters at some distance from where the drive was going on, said he had been living in Khori village for the past 14 years and had nowhere to go.

'I have my wife and a minor daughter to take care of. We have nowhere to go now in the middle of this pandemic. I had built my dwelling exhausting all my savings. Now, I have nothing left with me. The government should rehabilitate us,' said the man, who is an auto-rickshaw driver.

There were many others like him who had similar tales to share. Some said the government should rehabilitate all those who would be affected by court orders.

Commissioner of Faridabad Municipal Corporation Garima Mittal told reporters in Faridabad on Wednesday that the Supreme Court orders will be followed in letter and spirit and the structures will be removed within the stipulated deadline.

At the same time, she reiterated that the Haryana government has prepared a rehabilitation scheme for Khori slum dwellers of Faridabad under which they will get flats for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) equipped with electricity, water and toilet facilities in nearby Dabua Colony and Bapu Nagar area. They will, however, be required to pay for the flat in fixed monthly instalments. Around 50,000 migrants settled in the Khori area of the Aravali forest in Faridabad district over the years.

However, according to the conditions laid down for the rehabilitation scheme, people who feature in the electoral list of the National Capital Region of Delhi will not be included.

Many political leaders, social activists and some leaders spearheading farmers' agitation against the farm laws had earlier demanded that residents be rehabilitated before carrying out demolitions.

The Supreme Court had earlier refused to stay its order directing the Haryana government and the Faridabad Municipal Corporation to remove encroachments, saying they want the forest land to be cleared.

The court had asked the state and the civic body to comply with its June 7 direction in this regard.

Ordering the removal of the structures, the apex court had said land grabbers cannot take the refuge of rule of law and talk of fairness. PTI SUN CK

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