Eviction drive at Phoenix Bay ignites row, families allege discrimination

Report by: 
ROOPA LALL
Port Blair
31 May 2018

An encroachment eviction drive carried out in the city on Thursday generated sharp criticism for the district administration. As per reports, the revenue authorities bulldozed a compound wall bordering a famous hotel at Phoenix Bay and shattered houses of at least eight families constructed over a parcel of land measuring 70.72 sq.mtrs. Residents cried foul over the eviction drive which, according to them, was carried out without following the due process of law.  “Three generations have been living here for the past forty years. Suddenly the revenue department discovered that the land is an encroached one. We’re served notice to vacate the hours at 12 noon yesterday and in less than 24 hours, the eviction drive was carried out leaving us homeless,” said one N Anand Rao.
“There are children, women, senior citizens residing at this location for the past four decades. One is a cancer patient in a critical condition and rendered homeless today. Where do we go now during heavy rains. Many of us are labourers working for a construction company. The exercise was carried out on the behest of the owner of Hotel Sentinel. For the past many days, the hotel staff here have been pressurising us to vacate the place. Stones have been pelted on our homes during night, garbage dumped in front of homes, in order to threaten us. A complaint was also lodged with the Police against the acts after our Ward Councillor intervened in the matter. The administration should consider our pleas and allow us to stay here,” said S.Chander Rao, V Vishvadharan and R.Savatri.
The Municipal Councillor of the area, Smt Protima Banerjee and former Councillor, Mr Azizur Rehman alleged that the eviction drive was nothing short of discrimination against the poor labourers. There are many encroachments in different parts of the city like Garacharma, Nayagaon, but the Revenue Department probably has two set of rules - one for the rich and influential and the other for poor. One such eviction drive at Garacharma was stalled after the intervention of the Deputy Commissioner of South Andaman recently. Instead of targeting poor labourer, the district administration should conduct a probe against the hotel management for violation of building bye-laws, they said.