Encroachment a social illness

Yesterday, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered removal of encroachments from the government owned pastures in Tharparkar district. The same case is also under hearing in Hyderabad Circuit Bench now adays. Hyderabad Circuit Bench issued summons for the Deputy Commissioner Tharparkar to appear before the court on February 9 along with the progress report.

As per reports, the Sindh government had set aside huge area of land for grazing of the livestock. Later, few local influential people illegally occupied those grazing fields which had stopped access of the livestock to those grassland. The rural economy of Sindh is dependent on the livestock sector and poor masses usually do not have their own grazing land therefore in general public interest Sindh government left this piece of land as meadow for livestock. The illegal occupier of land had denied access of the livestock to the meadow amounted to snatching the livelihood of the rural folks.

The encroachment is not the problem of only Tharparker District or Sindh, this social menace has equally spread over in all parts of the Country from Khyber to Karachi and Khunjerab to Quetta. It has become a big and serious social and administration problem in the Country. It has been observed that mainly there are two types of illegal encroachment in our society. First, people get encroached on the part of land, roads or streets adjacent to them and extend their home, shop at the piece of land not owned by them.

This type of encroachment is common everywhere in all parts of Pakistan and no street or Bazar is exempted from it. About more than 80% masses usually involved in it ranging from a shop keeper to a Plaza owner. It is also pertinent to mention that it also became a part of business in the cities, where Shopkeepers and plaza owners charge Pak Rupees 300-500 per day to the carts and Thelas installed on the road in front of their shop or Plaza. Similarly, the reps of Municipal corporations or Cantonment Boards as applicable charge similar rate to each cart or thela in their area. Anyone can witness this practice at sun set every day in most of the Bazars.

The other type of encroachment is the higher level of this menace in which influential people use to occupy government land, parks, schools or the land owned by Pakistan Railway or other departments with the help of staff of land Revenue Department or CDA. Both types of encroachment cause loss to government revenue and badly hamper the common citizens, vehicular traffic and pedestrians as well.

Currently, this encroachment presented a bigger challenge in the Cities. The illegal and unjustified construction on sewerage lines and sewerages Nullahs, has physically stopped the flow of filthy sewerage water. Particularly, during moon soon season water came out into the homes, streets and roads as we witnessed last year in Karachi, Lahore and other big cities of the Country.

There is a continuous anti- encroachment drive in big cities including Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad after Chief Justice Saqib Nisar took notice of it and personally heard the case at Karachi Registry in 2018. Now it became a huge problem for the provincial and federal governments to remove the illegal encroachment, clear the water ways and handled the occupants as per their category. Because, the illegal occupiers are residing or holding the land for years and many bought this land from someone else. Therefore, government has to compensate them or to provide them alternate residences.

This is a big issue and need continuous attention of the stakeholders. Besides, physical action against encroachment in the cities and towns, there is a need to readdress this issue permanently, by implementation of rules and regulations of building and constructional code and accountability of the relevant Departments. The concerned departments are not performing their duties and involved in making illegal money by protecting and promoting this social illness. Government should impose heavy penalty to the officer/staff concerned whose area of responsibility is victim of illegal encroachment.