DHAKA’S north city authorities on Thursday pulled down several hundred illegal structures on roads, footpath and the land that had so far been illegally grabbed in the Mirpur 11 area in the capital Dhaka. This is what the city authorities should always do to keep areas free of illegal occupation that often inconveniences traffic, in addition to causing other harms to cities. In a city such as Dhaka, perennially plagued with congestion on the road, such drives, and more of them, are welcome. But what comes with concerns is that the day’s drive triggered clashes between the police, reportedly aided by the people of a local ward councillor, and the people, mostly members of the Urdu-speaking community who live in a camp-like situation on a few locations in the capital city, who are said to have erected the structures by illegally grabbing open or public spaces. While the city authorities say that seven to eight members on the corporation staff were injured in the clashes, Urdu-speaking people say that more than 50 of them, which witness accounts nearly corroborate, were minorly injured. The associates of the ward councillor attacked the people who protested at the drive with firearms and sharp weapons, as New Age has reported, when the police fired rubber bullets.
While the ward councillor could, of course, supervise the eviction drive that took place in areas under his jurisdiction, his people could in no way pull out gun and weapons on the protesters. It was the job of the law enforcers that accompanied the drive. This having been the case, as the chief of an Urdu-speaking people’s organisation said, the authorities have not served any notice before the eviction drive, which the organisation says has violated the legal provision for serving notice and the Appellate Division’s stay order that halted drives until May 2. The protesters say that they have run their businesses in the areas for the past five decades. The situation also implies an arrangement for their rehabilitation as the city authorities have for long 50 years remained indifferent to the situation. But Dhaka’s north mayor who visited the place after the clashes said that the eviction would continue ‘without showing mercy to anyone’ and the city authorities would carry out eviction drives against grabbers without having served ‘any prior notice.’ But serving notices on such offenders before pulling down their structures, even if illegally erected, is the norm and the mayor should not be in a position to take action before warning against such offenders.
The city authorities say that the grabbers have chocked the 65–70-feet road. In such an event, the authorities should, of course, pull down the illegal structures to restore the original shape to the road. But the authorities must go by some rules and procedures. The authorities should also look into why the grabbers have so far been allowed to illegally erect structures on the road and the footpath. The Urdu-speaking people, who have so far been shut in camp-like situations for such a long period, should warrant from the authorities a grain of consideration, cloaked within some rehabilitation efforts and a prior warning, if not mercy.
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