Vrindavan, 2017.09.08 (VT): Although the pillars of the “half moon bridge” at Keshi Ghat have been dismantled, the litigation filed to stop the bridge’s construction still continues in the Allahabad High Court. The petition, which has been pending before the court since 2010, also challenged the illegal construction on the Yamuna floodplain between the ghats and the river, as well as the drains that dump raw sewage into Yamuna.
On August 23rd, the Court passed a very strong order to demolish the illegal structures on the Yamuna floodplain.
Demolitions have already begun on the Yamuna’s floodplain stretching from Kaliyadaha all the way to Cheer Ghat. A total of 87 structures, ranging from small residences to large ashrams, have been marked for destruction. The demolitions are being carried out by the Mathura District Administration and the Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authoridy (MVDA) in direct compliance with the High Court’s order.
Police and para-military forces have been deployed in large numbers to ensure that the demolitions are executed peacefully.
Although construction on the Yamuna floodplain is against the law, for over a decade the District Administration has turned a blind eye.
A strongly-worded order issued by the Honorable Justices Arun Tandon and Ritu Raj Awasthi states that 192 individuals received official warning notices for illegal construction work. These notices were issued between the years of 2009 and 2010. However, the government did not follow up on these notices, and construction continued unabated.
Local residents allege that those serving the notices demanded bribes in exchange for allowing these buildings to be constructed.
The latest order states, “We find that these notices were issued in the year 2009-10. More than 7 years have lapsed; we fail to understand that what is the purpose of issuing notices under Section 27 (1) of the [Urban Planning] Act [of] 1973, if the authorities are not to enforce the provisions.”
“We afford one last opportunity to the District Magistrate, Mathura […] to ensure that the proceedings under Section 27 (1) are brought to their logical end at the earliest.”
The order goes on to state that fifteen of the pending demolitions must be completed within the next fifteen days, starting from the date the affidaivit was issued and beginning with the oldest notice served. Afterwards the district government must file a an affidaivit of compliance with the Allahabad high court, which is to be submitted personally by the Nagar Ayukt (City Commissioner) of Mathura.
The same cycle is to be repeated every 15 days until all of the illegal constructions on the floodplain are destroyed.
The order further states that should the court’s order remain unfulfilled, the District Magistrate of Mathura, Mr. Aravind Malappa Bangari, will be required to appear in court personally and provide an explanation.
The next court date is set for September 13th, 2017.
The High Court’s order also stated that the Mathura-Vrindavan Nagar Nigam (MVDA) has no permanent Vice-Chairman or Secretary, and till now the ADM has been doing the Secretary’s work, while the District Magistrate himself has been fulfilling the responsibility of the Vice Chairman.
Despite the court’s order to demolish the older buildings first, it has been observed by Vrindavan Today staff that the local government appears to be demolishing smaller buildings first, as they were unable to destroy large ashrams with the equipment available (small earth-movers).
To demolish these large buildings, it appears that cranes with wrecking balls, explosives, or other more sophisticated techniques and equipment will be required. At the time of publication, the owners of several large ashrams have reportedly been asked to demolish their property themselves.
We will bring you more news on the Yamuna floodplain demolitions as it arises.
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