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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Green cover for campus landgrab

Asked To Remove Encroachments, ITI Pusa Security Chief Alleges Threats By Officials
Nidhi Sharma | TNN , New Delhi: ‘‘I am scared. I don’t know what to do. I am in no mental state to carry out any demolitions,’’ says Kiran Kushwaha, with tears welling up in her eyes. She is the chief security officer of ITI Pusa campus and has been entrusted with the job of preventing encroachments and illegal constructions on the campus.
Kushwaha had to clear encroachments and illegal constructions on government land in the residential area of the campus on March 12. She alleges that some of the government officials whose houses she had to target came to her the next day and threatened her. She says she was already rattled by the mysterious burning of her car the previous night though the police are yet to establish any foul play in the matter.
Eventually, the demolitions did not happen. A single parent living with her 12-year-old daughter, Kushwaha couldn’t summon enough courage to go ahead though security and funds had been sanctioned.
The move to remove encroachments and constructions from government land started with an application filed under Right to Information Act 2005 by another resident of the colony, Renu Bahati. She had pointed out that former Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra had passed orders to conduct videography of government land to keep it free of illegal constructions and encroachments. Bahati asked principal of Pusa polytechnic R L Yadav, the public information officer (PIO), for videotapes of land in the institute.
Cornered by this application, Yadav asked Kushwaha to file a reply since she was the ‘‘custodian’’. Yadav says: ‘‘I am aware of these illegal constructions and encroachments. I have also forwarded my report to Delhi government. These had to be removed by Monday.’’ When asked about Kushwaha being threatened, Yadav refused to comment.
The encroachments and constructions on government land are evident right from the first house, E-1, which is occupied by R K Mishra who is OSD to the DDA vice-chairman. Mishra has covered the common space to create an ornamental garden. Also, there are extra rooms at the rear. PWD had submitted a report on these illegal constructions and had asked the campus authorities to remove them.
There are certain government plots that are lying vacant in the colony. Vimal Dimri, ITI principal posted in Arab ki Sarai, lives in E-11 and has created a garden on vacant plots meant for flat numbers E-13 and E-14. Similarly, DJB’s director (finance) R N Sharma, resident of E-17, has created a personal garden, servant quarter and a small garage on the plot meant for flats E-15 and E-16.
When this correspondent visited the families, they defended the encroachments by saying that they had only ‘‘beautified’’ the area. Sharma said: ‘‘These people (Kushwaha) are just jealous of what a beautiful garden we have created. We have beautified the common space.’’ When pointed out that the boundary wall had been extended and servant quarters constructed in the common space, Sharma said: ‘‘We are so fed up of this that we have decided to shift out. In a few days, you will not find any servant quarter or the boundary wall.’’
The Dimri family had the same explanation. ‘‘Everyone is jealous if the neighbour gets just a few inches of more space. These plots were lying vacant, so we made a garden,’’ Dimri’s wife said. The garden is a part of Dimri’s house. However, his wife defended it, saying: ‘‘But we do not stop anyone from using it. This is almost a common park.’’
There was no response at Mishra’s house. When Dimri’s wife asked the family to come out and speak to this reporter, they refused. Mishra couldn’t be reached at his office either.
Shaken by the developments, RTI applicant Bahati says ‘‘the deadline for my application is April 5 but now when an individual is being threatened, I don’t feel like pursuing this case.’’
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Mar 15; Section:Times City; Page Number 2

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