What it took to raze Colony No. 5: 3 months of planning, parleys with political parties, 2,000 policemen

Khushboo Sandhu Posted online: Saturday, Nov 23, 2013 at 0000 hrs
Chandigarh : After around three months of planning, several rounds of meetings with stakeholders and co-ordination between different departments, the UT Administration managed to reclaim 108 acres of land that had been encroached upon for several decades. Political parties were also taken on board before the drive ensuring that it was undertaken peacefully.

As the last structure fell on Friday, the UT Estate Office took possession of land worth more than Rs 3,000 crore. The area would now be developed into a commercial hub with the planning for the area having been outlined in the draft Master Plan.

Colony Number 5 was among the biggest colonies in the city with a population of around 50,000 people. For rehabilitation of the slum dwellers, a biometric survey was conducted in the year 2006. After completion of construction of one-room tenements at Dhanas, the beneficiaries were asked to shift to the houses allotted to them. However, they were still reluctant to shift; they demanded more time, citing several reasons such as proximity to place of work and school session still being on. In fact, no one had till the last day expected that the demolition would actually take place.

The planning for the demolition drive was started around three months back. Officials held several rounds of meetings with the colony dwellers. Representations by the colony residents were heard by UT Deputy Commissioner Mohd Shayin. Those who were eligible for getting houses were convinced to shift and the others informed why they were ineligible for allotment.

“It took months of planning for the drive to be successful. All stakeholders were taken on board before the drive was undertaken. We held several rounds of meetings with different people. Then the drive was undertaken,” said the Deputy Commissioner.

The beneficiaries who had been issued allotment letters had been given a month’s time to shift. Later, a notice asking the beneficiaries to shift within 21 days was issued. A month before the drive was to start, public announcements were made from the religious places in the colony asking the residents to shift. Officials also regularly visited the colony during this time.

Around 200 people were taken into preventive custody. These mostly included the leaders in the colony who could have instigated the others. As many as 70 of them were released on Friday after the drive was over.

With the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for next year, it was being speculated that, as has happened in the past, the drive would get stalled. However, the political parties were taken on board. Apart from senior BJP leader Harmohan Dhawan who protested and was arrested, there were no protests by political parties. While some leaders visited the site, most senior leaders of political parties stayed away.

The roads leading to the colony were sealed banning the entry of any outside vehicles. Staff was also deployed to ensure that there was no one in the hutments while these were being demolished. After realising that the drive was not going to be stalled, people started packing their belongings and shifting out. Around 2,000 policemen were deployed at the spot for maintaining law and order.