20 years after militancy, bureaucrats keep Chandigarh 'disturbed'

The threat of militancy ended years ago but Chandigarh continues to be tagged as a ‘disturbed area’ — thanks to the bureaucracy that wants it to be kept this way for its own benefits.

The ‘disturbed area’ tag was given to Chandigarh, a union territory and the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, in 1983 during the years of militancy in Punjab in 1981-1992.
This was done to give special powers to the administration and police and security forces to deal with militancy.

Punjab, however, shed the ‘disturbed area’ tag in 1997.

Since Punjab was mostly under President’s rule during that time, Chandigarh was also brought under the purview of the Punjab governor by making him the UT administrator.
But nearly two decades after militancy was wiped out of Punjab and with no major terror incident taking place after 1995, the city continues to be a ‘disturbed area’.

The matter is now under the purview of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which on Monday admonished the Chandigarh administration.

A bench of the High court orally remarked that the bureaucracy did not want the label to go as it suited its interests. It pointed out that officials posted in Chandigarh were clearly taking advantage of the label to serve their interests.

One reason the bureaucracy here does not want the tag to be removed is that even if posted out of Chandigarh they can retain their government accommodation in the disturbed area, an official in the UT administration said.

The HC bench has now given the administration three weeks to file its reply on why Chandigarh continues to be designated a ‘disturbed area’.

Sources in the administration say it had written to the Central government to take off the ‘disturbed area’ tag from Chandigarh but no notification has been issued so far.
The HC took up the issue after Surinder Bhardwaj, a Janata Dal-United leader here, filed a PIL in January. He sought the abolition of the Chandigarh Disturbed Area Act enforced in the union territory. But the administration is yet to file a response.

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