Friday, June 14, 2024

Thousands in distress as demolition drive begins in Lucknow’s Akbar Nagar

The Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) on June 10, began the demolition of shops and houses in the city’s more than 50-year-old Akbar Nagar locality amid heavy security deployment. 

The whole area had been barricaded and the traffic diverted to carry out the demolition drive scheduled in two shifts. Eight companies of the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), and Rapid Action Force (RPF) have been brought in to maintain law and order.

As soon as the LDA officials arrived with the bulldozers for demolition, residents began gathering their belongings, and some of them strongly resisted the government’s action. 

The demolition was legally given sanction by a Supreme Court bench consisting Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta On May 10. 

It upheld the Allahabad High Court ruling on the demolition drive against “unauthorised construction” in the Akbar Nagar area, a predominantly Muslim locality, adding that no one should be evicted without being provided with alternative housing facilities by the LDA. 

Several civil rights activists and critics pointed out that the Akbar Nagar area, currently holding over 10,000 residents with approximately 2,000 homes and livelihoods, is being bulldozed to initiate Yogi government’s proposed “Riverfront Project”. 

For several months, residents of Akbar Nagar have lived in fear of losing their homes, as  the city’s municipal authorities sought to demolish the settlement for the project.

LDA had demolished several small localities around Akbar Nagar during the period.

On 21 December, the first bulldozer rolled into Akbar Nagar, but before the demolition work could begin, the Allahabad high court’s Lucknow bench ordered a stay, but no final order was issued to prevent the demolition.

The Hindu reported that the 1,679 people from Akbar Nagar, who could manage to submit applications, will be accommodated at Hardoi Road, Lucknow, with the LDA deputing staff and officials claiming they are facilitating quick possession of buildings. 

Meanwhile, a video went viral, in which a 12-year-old girl was seen requesting Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav to intervene and save the houses from being razed.

 “In the morning, we were asked to vacate the premises where we have lived since birth. My whole family is in trauma. I request Rahul-ji and Akhilesh Yadav-ji to intervene and save our houses. I sought an appointment with Akhilesh-ji but it was not possible due to elections. I request you all to share this appeal, so that it reaches them,” Aisha, the 12-year-old girl in the video, said. 

LDA alleged that the settlement was illegal under section 27 (2) of the UP Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973.

Notably, the residents of Akbar Nagar were in occupation of the premises even before 1973, the year when the Act came into force, and it is argued that proceedings like demolition could not be initiated under the said Act.

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