Paradise lost: A cluster of improvised shelters (picture by Hardeep Singh) is an eyesore for the picturesque Ranchi Hill and (left) its resident deity at Pahari Mandir
Illegal settlers are back — and back with a vengeance — on Ranchi Hill.
The picturesque tourist spot, crowned with a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva fondly known as Paharibaba, draws hundreds and thousands of people from across the state and country round the year, particularly during the holy month of Shravan. But, encroachment has remained a recurring problem.
A Jharkhand High Court order last year had prompted the district administration to bulldoze squatters out, but 14 months down the line a cluster of shabby shelters have once again cropped up on the hill almost like one of Paharibaba’s touted miracles.
The settlers have not just blocked the marvellous view along southern and south-western slope, they are also uprooting saplings and trees, stealing building materials kept for an alternative pathway and indulging in substance and alcohol abuse.
Sikandar Kujur, a mason from Chandwa in Latehar district engaged in construction work at Ranchi Hill, claimed that squatters had made life hell for them.
“They damage the fencing, ravage the green cover and dig out saplings planted by the forest department and voluntary organisations. They take away raw materials and relieve themselves in the undergrowth. They come to blows if we try to restrain them from doing all these things. We are always outnumbered,” he said.
Bipin Singh, the president of Hill Area Citizen Forum, echoed Kujur. He said if attention was not paid now, things would spiral beyond control and Ranchi Hill become a den for outlaws.
“Slum children indulge in substance abuse behind these illegal shelters. Consumption of alcohol and drunken brawls are routine in evening hours. Ranchi Hill, which houses Pahari Mandir, is a holy spot and it is being defiled. This is a matter of serious concern. The hill had been freed from encroachment last June in the wake of a high court order, but the settlers are back and the district administration is a mute spectator,” he claimed.
Subdivisional magistrate Shekhar Jamaur, who is also the ex-officio secretary of Pahari Mandir Vikas Samiti — a trust for development and maintenance of the temple, admitted the problem. He said encroachment would be removed once construction of a boundary wall around Ranchi Hill was completed.
“A 7ft boundary is being erected along the periphery of the hill. The work is being done under direct supervision of the district engineer. Once it is over, squatters will be removed within 24 hours,” he said. He added that two days ago, he had also written to SSP Saket Kumar Singh requesting a barbed wire fence for security till the boundary wall was completed.
On how long it would take to finish construction so that squatters could be removed, he remained non-committal and passed the buck to district engineer K.C. Singh. The latter said that the proposed length of the boundary wall was 3,200ft. “So far, 700ft has been covered. We expected to finish construction work in another three months,” he added.
What interim action should be taken to save Ranchi Hill?