Where is the policy for Gujjar Nullah affectees, asks SHC

Petitioner seeks inquiry into Mehran Town fire; holds KMC, SBCA, KDA responsible


Our Correspondent August 31, 2021
Residents poured into the streets in fear and anticipation, as KMC teams launched an anti-encroachment operation in the surroundings of Gujjar nullah. PHOTO: ONLINE/File

KARACHI:

The Sindh High Court sought on Monday a policy from the provincial government and the Karachi commissioner regarding the Gujjar Nullah demolition drive.

A two-member bench comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Muhammad Faisal Kamal Alam was hearing a petition filed against the demolition of three houses during the drive.

During the hearing, Justice Khan asked the deputy advocate-general whether the government had formed any rehabilitation plan for the affectees of the demolition drives. "If people [displaced by] Lyari Expressway are given alternate plots, do something for these poor people too," he remarked.

At this, the government lawyer said he could inform the court after consulting with the Sindh government.

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"What is the policy for Gujjar Nullah affectees? Will they be given alternate plots or compensation?" inquired the bench. The court asked whether the Sindh government had formulated a policy yet.

Thousands of families along the Gujjar and Orangi Town nullahs await compensation and rehabilitation since they were rendered homeless by demolition drives ordered by the Supreme Court as measures to clear up the nullahs of encroachments and blockages to ensure smooth drainage of rainwater. The apex court had also directed the government to ensure compensation and rehabilitation. Some leased structures have been granted stays by the courts.

At least three churches have also been demolished during the drive while residents, many of whom who now live over the rubble, complain that the authorities have yet to clear out the rubble from the razed structures and yet to begin cleaning of the actual nullahs.

The affectees have also petitioned the courts maintaining that the authorities have razed more structures to construct 30-feet-wide roads on either side of the nullah, which was not included in the plan approved by the apex court.

They have further alleged that more houses than needed are being razed besides bringing up the matter of leased structures being marked as encroachments.

In this case, the petitioner's counsel apprised the court that three properties of his client were razed during the demolition.

Directing the Sindh government and the Karachi commissioner to submit the official policy regarding Gujjar Nullah affectees, the bench adjourned the hearing till September 15.

Inquiry sought

Meanwhile, a petition seeking an inquiry into the blaze inside a factory in Mehran Town, which left at least 16 labourers dead, was filed before the SHC.

The petitioner, advocate Nadeem A Sheikh, has requested an urgent hearing of the petition as it is a matter of public interest.

The petition notes that the court has already issued orders directing the government and city administration to take fire safety measures and ensure they are implemented. It contended that the lives of 16 workers were lost and the Karachi Development Authority, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and the Sindh Building Control Authority were responsible. There was only one entry and exit point, no emergency exits, it stated, adding that workers had scrammed to the roof to save their lives but found the doors locked.

The petitioner argued the relevant SSPs were responsible for such industrial establishments existing. Public institutions have ignored the standards and regulations set for safety and allowed such substandard factories to operate.

The petitioner maintained that at least a SSP-level officer should be appointed to investigate the tragedy and prayed the court to issue directives for compensation for the families of those killed.

The aggrieved families should be compensated with Rs5 million instead of the Rs1 million proposed and those responsible for the tragedy should be identified and prosecuted under murder and attempted murder charges, prayed the petitioner.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2021.

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