Feb 21, 2009

An incomplete drive

The much-hyped drive of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) against encroachments and illegal gates in various city localities has been called off under political and other pressures. The main motive behind the drive was to clear the roads, lanes and streets, which were denying the right of way to the public. Prior to its launch, the drive had been approved by the high-ups in the Punjab government. Sources in the LDA claim that when they started their operation in Gulshan-e-Ravi area of Lahore, they started receiving phone calls of influential people and as a result the operation had to be postponed for an indefinite period. The drive was launched on December 11, 2008 and Allama Iqbal Town was the first locality where the LDA teams started demolishing illegal structures. The LDA teams demolished over 250 gates and barriers from different blocks of Allama Iqbal Town only in a week’s time. Lahore has become a city of encroachments. There are more than 78,000 encroachments present in Lahore at various locations including Shahalam Gate, Badami Bagh, Qila Gujjar Singh, Garhi Shahu, Misri Shah, Circular Road, Anarkali, Ichhra, Gulberg and Allama Iqbal Town. One cannot even find enough space to walk on the footpaths in these localities. It has been seen that people have become comfortable with occupying land and claiming it for their own. People extend their driveways and small lawns on the outer boundary of the house to such an extent that the roads shrink to half their original size. This trend has had a trickledown effect in our society, since it is always the influential and powerful ones who break the rule and the ordinary citizens follow. The reason that encroachments have risen to such level in Lahore is that people are confident they can get away with it and cannot be held accountable. Illegally installed gates and barriers have been a nuisance for the public for a long time. These encroachments hinder the smooth flow of traffic, mar the beauty of the neighbourhood and force people – especially pedestrians – to take longer routes in case the gates are closed. Prior to the launch of the drive, the LDA carried out a rough survey of the city which revealed that none of the localities coming under its control were free of illegal gates and barriers. While the drive to remove these gates was welcomed by people, some were agitated because of the deteriorating law and order situation. The gates and barriers put up at various points in the city are basically security measure taken by the residents to check the activities of criminals. The government should take initiative to provide better security arrangement to the people so that they do not take matters into their own hands. The fact that the drive against encroachments has been halted under political pressure is truly lamentable. In order for the society to flourish, the law should be equal for one and all. The LDA and the government should make sure that no one is given relief based on his status or political standing. During his last tenure, CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif initiated the drive to remove encroachments from the Hall Road and other areas. During this drive, encroachments by several influential people were removed. The CM should take notice of the present situation and make sure that no one is considered above the law. It is time to rid Lahore of encroachments of all kinds.

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