The shops along Sadar Hospital in Ranchi on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
A clutch of 24 shopkeepers, doing business beside Sadar Hospital on Albert Ekka Chowk, is paying the price of a mistake committed by Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) 20 years ago.
After all these years, the civic body, which had constructed 32 shops at the spot and let them out on rent as part of rehabilitation measures, has suddenly woken up to the fact that the land does not belong to it and has served notices to the vendors to vacate the premises by June 27.
“RMC’s chief executive officer (CEO) Vinay Kumar Choubey issued the notice on June 12, asking us to vacate within 15 days. The notice said he was taking this action as it had come to the civic body’s knowledge after a long legal process that the land actually belongs to Sadar Hospital and not RMC,” said one of the affected shopkeepers, Ranjeet Verma.
Deepak Kumar, who runs a mobile phone repairing shop at the site, said: “The shop was allotted to me in 1992. The RMC gave us the shops as part of a rehabilitation drive after vendors were removed from the heart of the time for a city beautification project. I have been regularly paying rent to RMC and have valid receipts.”
The vendors have knocked on the door of Assembly Speaker and Ranchi MLA C.P. Singh, who has pledged to take up their cause.
“The notice is not justified. RMC has no right to punish the shopkeepers for a mistake committed by the bureaucrats. Instead, it should first punish those, who allotted the shops 20 years ago. If the land did not belong to the civic body, why did it carry out construction on it and collect rent from the shopkeepers? I am drafting a letter and will soon send it to the appropriate authority,” the Speaker fumed.
Choubey could not be contacted while district civil surgeon and chief medical officer of Sadar Hospital A.K. Choudhary said he does “not have any idea about any dispute over construction of shops by RMC on the hospital’s land”.
Law officer of RMC, Arwind Shrivastava, however, justified the action. “RMC did nothing wrong as the land does not belong to it.”
But why so late? “It had remained a disputed matter since 1994. But after the present CEO came to know about the controversy this March, he verified all documents and realised that it was a mistake on RMC’s part and subsequently asked the shopkeepers to clear out. We have not been accepting rent from them since then,” Shrivastava said.
Sources pointed to the role of land mafia.
“Land sharks want to grab the prime plot. If that had not been the case, RMC would have issued notices to all 32 shops and not 24,” an RMC official pointed out.
Shrivastava, however, rubbished the allegations. “Eight of the 32 shops were constructed after seeking due permission from Sadar Hospital at the time of widening of Albert Ekka-Lalpur Chowk Road in 1992,” he reasoned.
The shopkeepers, however, have no intention to budge. Kanwaljeet Singh “Sunti”, one of the vendors, said he would challenge the RMC’s order in Jharkhand High Court.