Vrindavan, 2017.07.22 (VT): Tensions are rising on the Yamuna riverfront as the government moves to demolish the illegal colonies on the floodplain.
The government is under pressure from the Allahabad High Court to remove more than four thousand structures in twenty-five illegal colonies from Varah Ghat to Panighat and beyond.
On Tuesday, the Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority (MVDA) issued orders to the people living on the Yamuna floodplain to remove their belongings from their homes and vacate the premeses. A police team and thirty bulldozers were deployed to begin the demolition work, but local residents protested in large numbers. The people expressed their anger by burning effigies of various government officials.
The people of the Yamuna floodplain accused district authorities of foul play, saying they had turned a blind eye to the illegal construction for the last twenty years. They even provided water, electricity, roads and a sewage system. The government should have acted right away when people first began to build on the floodplain. They further requested the government provide public housing to them instead of leaving them homeless on the street.
Some say that the protests have been further energized by certain politically-affiliated people who have built large ashrams illegally on the floodplain but, not wishing to show their faces, are sending poor people to protest on their behalf.
In 2010, a PIL was filed by Mahant Madhumangal Sharan Das Shukla to stop various violations of the Yamuna’s sanctity, including the half-moon bridge and the rampant dumping of construction debris on the riverbank. After hearing the case, the court ordered the illegal constructions to be removed as well. But the court’s order was never executed, and illegal construction has greatly increased over the last seven years.
In a hearing on July 13th, 2017, before the double-bench of Allahabad High Court Justice Arun Tandon and Justice Rituraj Awasthi, the Mathura district authorites were put under pressure when it was questioned what actions the MVDA had taken to remove the illegal constructions after 2010, when it had served notices to the illegal occupants in 2009 and 2010. The court ordered that the Vice Chairman of the MVDA file an affidavit about the action taken so far in this regard.
The court also ordered that the Municipal Commissioner of the newly-formed Mathura-Vrindavan Municipal Corporation shall also file an affidavit indicating what steps have been taken for treatment of sewage and waste material before they are permitted to enter the river Yamuna, including that from sewage drains and so forth.
In the subsequent hearing on July 21st, it was stipulated that the MVDA and Mathura-Vrindavan Municipal Corporation would file an affidavit regarding the same. However, the case could not be heard on Friday as the lawyers went on strike.
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