Two children squat on the remains of what was once their home. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, June 30: Dispur today launched an eviction drive, which most within the establishment said was a now-or-never initiative to save Guwahati from going under water even after a brief shower.
The administration cleared around 40 bighas of land, including a 2km stretch along the Bharalu, one of the city’s main natural drains.
The drive was ordered last night during a meeting chaired by chief minister Tarun Gogoi. It follows the “unprecedented” floods that inundated the city on June 26 after it received 85mm of rainfall. Nine persons died — four in landslides, four were electrocuted and one drowned. The city came to a complete halt and the Gogoi government faced flak for having done nothing in its 13 years of rule.
The administration displayed its full might while dismantling houses. All the structures in the areas where the eviction drive was carried out were razed. By evening, administration officials promised that all natural drains would be cleared within 15 days.
That the administration would brook no protest was made clear by Gogoi on Saturday and by senior home department official Prateek Hajela this evening.
“Let us take this opportunity to improve infrastructure in the city,” Hajela told reporters while responding to queries about failed drives in the past and whether Guwahati was one of the most unplanned cities in the country.
Hajela was accompanied by GMDA chief executive officer M. Angamuthu, who was last night appointed the stop-gap Kamrup deputy commissioner. Angamuthu said they would first target restoration of natural drains as they carry 80 per cent of the water to the Brahmaputra. On allegations of a partisan drive, he said no leniency would be shown to the well-heeled.
“We will target both temporary and permanent structures. If there is any stay by any court or the Assam Revenue Board, we will verify the order and take action against encroachers. We will not allow any encroacher. We plan to widen the natural drains within 15 days,” Angamuthu said.
On whether any action would be taken against officials who flouted rules to give settlement/land patta/ building permission, he said, “We will take action, rest assured.”
Hajela, a former Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner, chipped in to allay fears of selective eviction. “We have demolished buildings in the past,” he said.
As the administration carried out the eviction drive, families were left without a roof over their heads.
Housewife Moon Borthakur, whose house on the banks of the Bharalu at Rup Nagar, was dismantled by the administration for being constructed on “encroached land” said, “My husband is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Vellore. I don’t know where to go with my three children who are between seven and four years of age.”
She said the eviction drive was carried out without giving them any notice as a result of which many of her household items were also damaged. “At least they could have given us some time to vacate this place. All of a sudden they came at 11am and demolished my house.” She said they had been living at the place for more than 10 years.
The administration said temporary arrangements would be made for those affected in the hills.
Angamuthu said, “We are carrying out sensitisation drive in the hills so that they vacate the landslide-prone areas. A survey carried out by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority had identified 366 such areas in the hills.”
There would have been more devastation on June 26-27 had the Brahmaputra been in spate, he added to drive home the enormity of the situation the city faces vis-ŗ-vis flash floods.
Time for some action
Other Dispur measures to check flash floods
• Chief minister Tarun Gogoi directs GMDA to take necessary steps for implementation of the pilot project named ‘Integrated Land use Planning and Water Resource Management’ based on a report by Prof. Arup Kumar Sarma of IIT Guwahati to the urban development department in 2008. The GMDA will implement the pilot project with the help of social forestry. Last week, Gogoi had said he was not aware of any such report
• GMC threatens commercial establishments within its jurisdiction of cancelling their trade licences if they do not keep a bin for waste disposal within three days, for smooth flow of drain waters and give the city a clean look
• Kamrup (metro) administration to launch an interactive portal for public to post grievances for prompt redress
• Officials tasked with specific areas to continuously monitor working of water pumps, clearance of drains, so that action could be taken before the problems acquire alarming proportions. Senior water resources department official Prasanta Gogoi (9435351311) and GMC additional commissioner Dayaram Rajbongshi (9435400780) can be contacted for help and assistance during rain
Areas targeted on Day I
Natural drains such as Bharalu, Mora Bharalu, Bonda, Basistha, Bahini and Silsako. Next step will be clearing the hills and footpaths. Around 40 bighas clearedon Monday
Problems affecting Guwahati
Hill-cutting, encroachment, rising population (over 12 lakh in an area of 1528 square km), lack of synergy between the GDD, GMDA, GMC in the past, emergence as a profitable real estate destination, no check/clear-cut policy on issuance of land patta/settlement and lax monitoring of building norms. Past eviction/cleanliness/desiltation drive has not yielded the desired results, as there was no sustained push and preventive measures