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CIMA Gallary

Stones fail to stop illegal house demolition

Cooch Behar, March 5: The Cooch Behar municipality today pulled down around 25 houses which had stood on footpaths and drains at Khalsipatti after quelling a violent resistance from the local people.

The civic body run by the Congress-Trinamul combine had launched a drive on Friday to destroy illegally constructed structures in town.

Today, the municipal officials, accompanied by chairman Biren Kundu, descended on Khalsipatti with an excavator around 2.30pm. The target was around 25 houses which had been built over drains and pavements.

The excavator was hit by a hail of stones when it started knocking down the first building. “Men and women of the area began pelting the excavator with stones and stalled the work. They were trying to stop us from carrying out the demolition,” said Kundu.

But the resistance proved to be short-lived as police swung into action and scattered the stone-throwers.

“The police personnel were standing some distance away and things were getting out of hand with a large crowd closing in on the officials. The police managed to drive away those trying to create the problem. The demolition was disrupted for half an hour,” said the Congress chairman of the municipality.

As the mob retreated, the excavator razed to the ground one house after the other. Almost all the buildings had concrete walls and tin roofs and they had been built illegally on a five-bigha plot owned by the municipality.

“Although there were 180 illegal buildings on the plot, only 25 of them were pulled down as they had encroached on footpaths and drains. The structures were posing problems to the drainage system in town,” said Kundu.

Chintamoni Harijan, whose one-room concrete structure was destroyed today, said the civic administration should have considered their rehabilitation before the demolition.

“Before driving us out of our homes where we had been staying for over 20 years, the municipality should have provided us with alternative accommodation,” he said.

The chairman said the civic body had told the occupants of the houses about the demolition 25 days in advance. “We had given all of them a warning to shift elsewhere and demolish the structures on their own. We will consider their plea for rehabilitation,” said Kundu.

He hinted that some of the families rendered homeless during the drive could be rehabilitated on a vacant land owned by the municipality behind the hawkers’ market. “If all families have to be provided with shelter, we need to consult the district administration,” said Kundu.

The civic body is planning to demolish more illegal structures in the coming days.

“We hope that all such structures will be removed in about five days. If needed, we will continue the drive for more days,” said the chairman.

Two offices of the Trinamul Congress’ frontal organisations were among the buildings demolished on Day 1 of the drive. Kundu said there was no resistance from any political party to the demolition.