TRADERS coming to rebuild several dozens of illegal shops at Sundarban Square Super Market at Gulistan in the capital that were demolished by the Dhaka South City Corporation just about five months ago points to a worrying negligence of the authority in monitoring and preserving the reclaimed spaces. Traders have reconstructed, as New Age reported on Monday, shops on spaces that were cleared in December 2020 after DSCC authorities had identified about 3,500 illegal shops in 21 markets. What is worrying is that when traders have been reconstructing the shops for about five months now, DSCC authorities appear to remain inactive. DSCC chief estate officer’s explanation that they are aware of the reconstruction of illegal shops and that they will demolish the shops soon appears illogical. Traders, meanwhile, are reported to have claimed that they have proper trade licences and allotment papers that they paid for during the tenure of the former mayor of the DSCC, and, therefore, the authorities cannot evict them or punish them. If anything, the government should, as traders say, punish the authorities concerned as they were involved in allotting spaces for shops in different DSCC markets in violation of rules.
In December 2020, the eviction drive caused tension and turmoil between the owners of the shops and DSCC authorities. The tension also rolled on to a face-off between the incumbent mayor and the immediate past mayor. The incumbent mayor brought some allegations of corruption against the former mayor saying that the former mayor had violated rules and amassed a large amount of money by allotting spaces illegally to traders while the former mayor said that the allocation for the shops was legal because the board of the city corporation had endorsed the allocations after a modification in the plans. A case was filed on December 29, 2020 against seven Dhaka South City Corporation officials, including the former mayor, on charges of embezzling Tk 350 million through the allocation of spaces illegally in breach of the designs of the markets. No resolution of the case or the face-off between the former and the incumbent mayors has yet been heard of. What, meanwhile, comes as worrying is that most eviction drives in the country, be they to reclaim occupied market or road spaces, rivers, wetlands or forest land, prove to be unfruitful and inconsequential in the absence of proper after-eviction monitoring.
Dhaka South City Corporation authority must, under the circumstances, intervene and reclaim the spaces that it cleared just a few months ago. The government and the authorities concerned must also look into the allegation of corruption brought against some DSCC officials. The Anti-Corruption Commission should also investigate the allegation and hold to account anyone found standing in breach of the law. Above all, the government must ensure that all eviction drives are followed by a strong monitoring mechanism so as to reap the benefits of the drives.
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