The government machinery in Gurgaon is running amok. Those who are used to living in air-conditioned environs can now be seen surveying roads in Cyber Hub, Ambience Mall, Udyog Vihar, and Sec-29’s Leisure Valley Park in the scorching heat.
From Gurgaon to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s office in Chandigarh, everyone is trying to make sure that liquor shops along NH8 do not come under the axe of the recent Supreme Court ruling. The apex court had ordered a ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of highways.
NH8 Prone to Drunk Driving Accidents
Following the ruling, liquor establishments are engaged in finding new workarounds. These include erecting walls to ensure that the distance of hotels and restaurants from the highway comes to more than 500 metres.
This, I feel, is a definite cause for celebration. Nothing should interfere with the sale of liquor and if it is done in full compliance with the law, all the better.
After all, who cares that every four minutes a person dies in a road accident in India?
This works out to 377 deaths daily and more than 1.37 lakh deaths annually.
A majority of these accidents are a result of drunk driving. Moreover, the Gurgaon stretch of NH8 is one of the most dangerous routes in the country, more prone to drunk driving accidents than any other.
An Appeal to Gurugram Administration
However, the rate of drunk driving accidents in India is not my concern. I am chiefly concerned with the construction of new roads leading to liquor shops and restaurants in Gurugram.
I would like to make my appeal to all the players in Gurugram – the CM, District Collector, Divisional Commissioner, HUDA – as well as DLF, the all-powerful benefactor in this city. Maybe one of them will listen to the prayers of 1,500 persons living in the National Media Centre located on NH8? It is our ardent wish that roads be constructed for our commute to and from the residential colony so that we are not forced to walk ridiculous distances around roundabouts to reach the main road for Gurugram and Delhi.
It is a stroke of luck that our building is situated right in the middle of Cyber Hub and Ambience Mall where many government officials can be found these days, trying to ensure livelihood for liquor establishments.
Tale of Rs 400 cr Land Grab
Four years ago, the residents of National Media Centre, located on NH8, could reach the highway between Delhi and Gurugram without any hassles.
In May 2013, DLF, in collusion with the HUDA and then-CM Hooda, grabbed two acres of our land under the pretext of constructing a road. DLF was under Robert Vadra’s protection. As a result, we were entirely helpless. The police and the government stood against us.
DLF now possessed, quite illegally, private land worth Rs 400 crore.
For two decades, this land had enjoyed the status of a green belt. Now overnight, all the trees were felled. Bulldozers and dumpers were set to work on the area with impunity, under the supervision of the police. When the government machinery behaves like bullies, what can a common man do?
Taking up the cause of environmental conservation, we filed a writ petition with the NGT but even they did not have the courage to challenge the behemoths.
They exhibited the same spirit of cowardice when they allowed Sri Sri Ravishankar to organise his AOL festival on the banks of the Yamuna with the result that months later, they are unable to recuperate the fine the AOL owes them for inflicting enormous damage to the river.
Even the Punjab High Court didn’t pay attention to our appeal and our writ petition was rejected. The matter is now pending with the Supreme Court. This process of litigation bore bitter fruits for us. The DLF and HUDA not only grabbed our land but also created huge obstacles for us. New roads were constructed and old roads were linked in a manner ensuring that the daily lives of the residents of National Media Centre would be affected adversely.
Long Road to Delhi
The National Media Centre is merely two hundred metres from Delhi but we are now forced to travel 2 miles along a roundabout to reach it. If you want to travel from IFFCO Chowk to National Media Centre, you will have to take a two-mile long roundabout to Delhi and take the U-turn under Rajokri flyover to enter Gurugram.
The other route, which goes through DLF Phase 3, is even longer. Even venturing out of our homes is potentially dangerous, since the authorities have constructed a road right outside our society, where heavy-duty vehicles whizz by at an alarming speed.
DLF and Gurugram administration have spared no efforts to make sure that the residents of the National Media Centre are either trapped within their homes or are loath to come back because of the potential danger. Perhaps this is revenge for the legal action we took against them. They expected us to keep quite while they brazenly grabbed two acres of our land. We, in turn, never expected anything from them.
Judge saab, we have recently observed your clout in action as bureaucrats scramble to find loopholes in your ban on liquor sale near highways. It is only the fear of you that has led to construction of new roads in Gurugram in an effort to bypass your law.
Therefore, it is towards you that we direct our appeal. The residents of National Media Centre’s 190 houses mostly belong to retired journalists and professors. Please consider their advanced age and direct your officials to make serviceable routes to and from the colony for them. I am convinced that the officials can spare a few minutes from saving liquor shops and hotels for this purpose.
(Sanjay Ahirwal has worked as a journalist for over two decades with various media agencies including NDTV. He can be reached @ahirwal. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)