State slow on illegal shrine removal

Tardy progress

State slow on illegal shrine removal

The government has identified as many as 4,817 structures across 30 districts as illegal. So far, action has been taken only against 1,659 structures, according to information accessed by Deccan Herald under RTI from the State Home Department. As per the apex court’s direction of December 7, 2009, the government should have removed all the illegal structures, including temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras, within eight weeks from that date.

The government, in its affidavit filed before the court, is silent on when it will take action against the remaining 3,158 illegal structures. It has explained that action is being taken as per the regulatory framework prepared by it to deal with unauthorised constructions.

The court, too, had not given any fresh deadline to comply with the order, sources said.
So far, Karnataka has filed three affidavits in the Sup­re­me Court which clearly indicate that action has not been taken against all the id­entified illegal structures for various reasons. The lat­est affidavit was filed on May 6.

Sensitive issue

Sources in the department said as demolishing or relocating a place of worship is a sensitive issue, taking people concerned into confidence before initiating action is taking time.

Of the 4,817 illegal structures, the government has removed 1,505 , and regularised 154, with 12 cases pending in court. It has not relocated any structure. So far, the highest number of structures removed has been in Bangalore Urban district (301), followed by Dakshina Kannada (257), Gadag (154) and Mandya (142).  In Hassan, no action has been taken against illegal structures and in Haveri, action has been taken against one structure. Interestingly, 82 structures have been regularised in Tumkur and 55 in Dakshina Kannada.

The Ho­me Department has not classified the structures as temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras. The Supreme Co­urt had directed that no unauthorised construction be pe­­rmitted in the name of temple, church, mosque or gurudwara on st­reets, parks or other public places.

As for existing structures of religious nature, the court directed that the governments review them case-wise and take steps early.  The court ordered that deputy commissioners should ensure that there was total compliance with its order. It directed the officials to submit a report within four weeks to the chief secretaries concerned who in turn should report to the court within eight weeks, from December 12, 2009.

Subsequently, the Karnataka government issued an order on February 17, 2010, prescribing guidelines for protecting roads, parks and other public places from encroachment. In case of violations the deputy commissioners were to be held personally responsible and would face disciplinary action. Heads of local bodies would be held similarly accountable. The guidelines are effective December 7, 2009.

Regarding unauthorised religious structures which had come up before December 7, the government said those which had come up on roads should be summarily demolished after asking the community leaders to shift the idols/relics. Unauthorised structures on storm water drains and retaining walls had to be demolished. However, illegal structures in public parks and public places were to be reviewed. If the structures “do not spoil the peace and tranquillity of the area,” they might be regularised.

In case more communities than one have put up religious structures in public places which might lead to an atmosphere of unrest, all of them should be demolished, the government ordered.

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