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August strike on Salt Lake shantytown

Grappling with the problem of encroachers — whose numbers are rising alarmingly — the Salt Lake authorities on Monday decided to take up in August the township’s biggest eviction drive. At a high-level meeting, the officials drew up a plan to demolish more than 1,000 shanties across Salt Lake in a single day.

“We are not divulging the date but the drive will be conducted on a single day in August,” said Baidyanath Mondal, executive officer of Bidhannagar Municipality. “Six teams will take part in the operation in different parts of the township,” he said. The teams will comprise a magistrate and a senior officer of the police, among others.

The eviction drive was planned much earlier by the civic authorities. “This is a growing menace and we are really worried about the way encroachers are thriving in Salt Lake. We had planned the drive early this year, but deferred it in view of the panchayat election,” an official said.

Large pockets of the Bidhannagar municipality and stretches of the state urban development department land are being illegally occupied by people, who, apart from setting up shops, are also building hutment. According to officials, encroachers are occupying large chunks of land in Sector V — the township’s industrial hub. Besides, the food kiosks in and around Karunamoyee — the township’s office para — cause environment pollution, they pointed out.

“All these paint a negative picture of the township, which is being projected by the government as a model to attract investors,” a civic official complained. “This time, we are serious and have decided to take up the issue strongly,” he added.

An eviction drive was recently carried out at the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass-Kadapara crossing, in the Duttabad area of Salt Lake. A few shops, including unauthorised motor garages and battery stores, were razed. A wall was also erected to ward off further encroachment attempts.

The shanties in the area are posing a law-and-order problem. Since long, the police have been receiving reports of criminals taking shelter in the shanties. “We have asked the block and ward committees to provide us with the names and identities of new residents in the township. But, there is a technical problem in case of the shanties, as it is difficult to locate new residents,” a police officer said.

The Opposition Trinamul Congress alleged that the civic authorities were sparing families that enjoy the backing of the ruling party. “There are gross disparities during eviction drives. Supporters of the Left Front are spared,” said Trinamul Congress councillor and leader of the Opposition in the Bidhannagar Municipality Anupam Dutta.

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