Drive against encroachments renders hundreds of families homeless

Dec 21 2019

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MATLI municipality chairman speaks to enraged protesters in the wake of anti-encroachment drive in the town on the banks of Phuleli Canal.—Dawn
MATLI municipality chairman speaks to enraged protesters in the wake of anti-encroachment drive in the town on the banks of Phuleli Canal.—Dawn

BADIN: Personnel of irrigation department aided by police and other departments launched a ‘ruthless’ drive against encroachments along the dykes of Gooni Canal, Akram Wah and Phuleli Canal in Golarchi and Matli towns, rendering homeless hundreds of poor families in harsh winter season.

Officials told journalists that hundreds of structures had been razed to the ground in the two towns during the ongoing operation which had made hundreds of families homeless.

A poor couple became so heartbroken watching their home and hearth being levelled in Golarchi that they attempted to commit suicide by consuming some toxic substance.

The affected area people told this reporter that Zulfikar Ali Jatt and his wife tried to commit suicide when their house was being pulled down. They were rushed to taluka hospital for treatment, they said.

They demanded that authorities concerned provide them alternative shelters and argued that they had been living near the dykes for the past many decades but all of a sudden the government had pulled the roof over their heads on the pretext of encroachments.

They held irrigation officials responsible for the demolition of their homes and asked the government to divert canals’ route away from the towns instead of destroying their homes.

In Matli, chairman of the municipality Abdul Rauf Nizamani and other prominent citizens of the town led angry protesters, who staged a demonstration on Badin-Hyderabad road in the middle of the town for over two hours.

They accused irrigation officials of rendering thousands of people homeless under a conspiracy and asked the Sindh government to either stop the operation or provide alternative shelter to the people thus made homeless.

Residents of the settlements on the canals’ banks in Badin, Tando Bago, Talhar, Pangrio, Khoski, Shadi Large and other towns and villages told this reporter that irrigation officials had marked their houses and other structures for demolition.

They had been in deep distress since they had been asked to either raze their houses with their own hands or be ready to be evicted from their dwellings where they had been living for decades.

They claimed that those who were polluting irrigation outlets had already been evicted during the massive operation launched on the orders of Supreme Court-mandated commission a year back. It was sheer injustice to evict those who were residing more than 70 to 80 feet away from the canals’ embankments, they said.

They contended that most towns and villages had developed along the canals’ banks in the same manner as early civilisations which had flourished on riverbanks. The irrigation department must demarcate the lands on which it laid claim, they said.

They appealed to chief minister to save them from the destruction in the name of drive against enchantments which ran against the directives of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

An estimated number of more than 25,000 families will be deprived of their homes in Badin district alone if the ongoing crackdown against “illegally constructed structures” continued at the current pace.

The irrigation officials admitted that they had already marked the structures that fell within the limits of the department’s land in the light of the orders they had received. The operation was under way in some areas with the help of security forces, they said.

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2019