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RTMA ultimatum to Leh nomads: leave or drown

August 05, 2012

RAWALPINDI, Aug 5: Being homeless is a curse but it is a double-curse if one happens to be a homeless ‘nomad’ on the banks of Leh Nullah. More than 100 families have established a colony along Railway Road adjacent to Leh Nullah from Dhoke Ratta to the Slaughter House.

The civic body — Rawal Town Municipal Administration (RTMA) — claims that they issued notices because the buildings are dangerous and in a dilapidated condition; plus there is the danger of flash floods due to recent rains but so far people occupying the area have refused to budge.

The meteorological department predicted normal rains in the current spell of monsoon but the local administration failed to make arrangements. It has to remove all the obstacles from Leh Nullah and its banks for the smooth flow of rainwater.

Even though the Punjab government has launched so many housing schemes for shelter-less people like the Ashiana Housing Scheme and others but all these schemes proved a political stunt and end up as accommodation quarters for party workers only, while the deserving like the Leh nomads along the Leh Nullah remain deprived.

Unfortunately, political leaders of Rawalpindi have only focused on their voters and supporters, while ignoring the homeless like those living along Leh Nullah.

“We are living on a vacant place as there was no land to accommodate us,” said Mehar Sultan, a resident of a katchi abadi, while talking to Dawn.

He said earlier they were living in Dhoke Hassu but the railway authorities vacated the land and forced them to move.

Another resident, Zameer Ahmed, a Leh nomad, said they were living near the Slaughter House as they would be able to collect animal hides and other parts and sell it to earn money for their livelihood.

Some others said they were willing to shift if they were provided alternative space for their huts as it would be difficult for them to move their families on the roadsides.

They said they had no political backing which was why they were made to shift from one place to the other.

“It is not our duty to provide alternative space to the nomads living on the banks of Leh Nullah,” said RTMA Administrator Saif Anwar Jappa, while talking to Dawn.

He said the civic body served notices to those who lived along the Leh and warned of flash flood in case of heavy rains.

He said the residents of these localities were not listening and we were left with no option but to launch an aggressive drive to remove them by force.

He said in some cases, the political leaders pressurised civic bodies not to remove them. He said the Rawal Town Municipal Administration would take action against those who reside in dangerous areas and to avoid any untoward incident.

He said that some nomads established their houses in the area of cantonment and he wrote a letter to the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) cantonment executive officer, Rana Manzoor Ahmed Khan, for joint operation.

However, Mr Khan said the nomads established their colony in the area of Union Council No. 1 and 2 (Dhoke Ratta and Ratta Amral) and these areas fall under the administrative control of Rawal Town so it would be better for the Rawal Town Municipal Administration to launch an operation.

He said he had not received any letter from the RTMA regarding the removing of nomads.

He said the cantonment board had no such colonies.