It’s final; the squatters along Rabindra Sarobar (Dhakuria Lakes) have to go. A division bench of Calcutta High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Eastern Railway for not carrying out its earlier order, directing the eviction of squatters on both sides of the railway tracks between Ballygunge and Tollygunge stations, on the Budge Budge section.
The court, presided over by Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, asked the railways to file a compliance report within three weeks. The state government has assured the court it will render assistance when required by the railway in the eviction drive.
During the day, when the matter relating to the environment of the Sarobar came for hearing before the green bench, the chief justice asked the railway why his order on eviction had not been complied with yet. The railway’s lawyer told the court that in view of the Supreme Court upholding the high court order, a second directive was required from the high court to proceed with the eviction.
The court told the railway that it was unnecessarily delaying the implementation of its order. Government pleader Rabilal Moitra was asked whether the authorities were ready to render police assistance in the drive. The court was informed that the government was ready to help the railway.
Uttam Majumdar, counsel for the railway, later told Metro that an emergency message had been sent to Eastern Railway’s general manager, conveying the court order. He said the railway was under the impression that a fresh order from the high court was necessary to implement the eviction drive.
During the hearing, the court was informed by petitioner Subhas Dutta that the Union government had certain guidelines for conferring a ‘national lake’ status on waterbodies. Chief Justice Mathur directed the Union environment and forest ministry to furnish a report stating the guidelines for conservation of national lakes and a list of such lakes within two weeks. The ministry will also have to state why Rabindra Sarobar should not be considered a national lake.
The chief justice also asked the Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) to file a report stating its programme for beautification of the Sarobar. The CIT counsel told the court that at least Rs 8 crore was needed to beautify the Lakes, and the agency had no money for it.
According to an assessment conducted by the state authorities, more than 16,000 squatters are living in nearly 4,000 shanties in the area. Many of them have electricity, hold ration cards and even enjoy voting rights. The Trinamul Congress has announced an agitation programme against the decision to evict the squatters. The party is demanding a substitute shelter for the encroachers before the eviction.
More that 150 settlers of the area have filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the Calcutta High Court order dismissing their prayer for a stay on the eviction. The petitioners alleged that they had not received any eviction notice from the railway.