Encroachment adjacent to Bokaro Airport ‘doubles’ despite several eviction drives

Ashis Sinha I Bokaro: Illegal encroachments adjacent to the Bokaro Airport have almost doubled despite several eviction drives conducted during the past. It also puts a halt in the expansion work of the airport and a significant hurdle on the way to start operations of the airport.

The task of evacuating illegally occupied land has become entangled in a political tug of war. Bokaro Steel Plant management and district administration kept their fingers crossed on the issue.

Bokaro is to be connected to the RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) under the Government of India’s flagship scheme UDAN. The foundation stone for the development of Bokaro airport at Bokaro Steel City was laid on 25 August 2018, but due to several hurdles and political tug of war, the expansion activity got delayed.

Unauthorised slum adjacent to Bokaro airport boundary wall puts a halt on the expansion and development work. People residing in those slums have broken the newly constructed boundary wall three times earlier, and now they have made a big hole in the wall to use the inside area for open defecation as well for grazing of their pets, said a contract worker at expansion work.

Earlier in 2019, over 400 houses along with Khatals were there at those unauthorised slums, now the number of encroachers has almost doubled, said Santosh Kumar a social activist.

Ahead of the expansion of the airport, Bokaro Steel Plant management along with the district administration issued an eviction order, and on 12 December 2018 over 60 per cent of the encroachers vacated the area along with their goods, valuables and left their temporary structures to remain as the district administration warned them to clear the area otherwise they will use brute force to vacate the site.

But the district administration did not move that day to demolish those temporary structures. Later in the night, all of them again returned into their premises and started residing there.

After that, the issue entangled into political war as Lok sabha and Assembly elections were announced and in view to utilize the evicted residents as vote banks, political leaders started supporting them in continuing their possessions.

“We along with few prominent political party leaders, supported them and asked the encroachers not to vacate their possession,” admitted Rakesh, Spokesperson of AAP.

“As landing of small-medium size airplanes, did not require such expansion of runway we were not forced to leave the slums,” added Rakesh.

Notably, earlier in June 2011 more than 200 houses of the said slum were demolished by a joint team of BSL and the district administration, but again the slum flourished.

At that time, on the high court directive, BSL has passed an eviction order against those houses that had come up illegally in the locality, and demolition drives were conducted in the presence of police personnel and magistrate. However, the people who had been living in the slum vacated the premises without protest.

Admitting the illegal houses that come up in the area are creating problems for expansion of the airport; ‘all-out efforts would be made to make the areas encroachments free,’ said a district administration official.

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