Eviction drive in Chattogram foiled  

Published: April 15, 2018 22:06:16 | Updated: April 17, 2018 22:15:28


An administrative drive to evict residents from illegally fabricated houses at a foothill in Chattogram was foiled by people of small means living there as tenants. The district administration is unlikely to feel amused to see that its well-intentioned move has been frustrated by people whose safety was the main concern behind the eviction drive. For some years now the destruction wreaked with the hills in Chattogram city and entire hill tracts region has been triggering massive landslides under which lives and property get perished. Last year was the worst year when huge debris buried several houses in many places and Chattogram-Bandarban-Rangamati road at some points, totally stopping road communication. Even a rescue army vehicle met with an accident when a large chunk of debris fell on it. In such an emergency people had to be evacuated in order to avoid further tragedies.

With the nightmarish memory of landslides at the back of its head, the district administration certainly wanted to act well ahead of the monsoon-the time when rain waters seep into the loose top soil of hills dug out illegally by land grabbers and cause landslides. Led by an additional deputy commissioner and an assistant commissioner, the team followed all the regulations before embarking on eviction. It had dismantled a few shanties before the residents with women in the front row forced the team to leave the place with the eviction unaccomplished. It is not clear if the influential quarters who constructed the illegal accommodations at the foot of the hills instigated the tenants to organise the resistance so successfully or their desperation made them to do so. One thing is clear that these people ignore the danger posed to their lives. Maybe, they really have nowhere to go. Their desperation may have prompted them to go against government action aimed at saving their lives.

It becomes clear that eviction drives will never succeed unless those are backed by a clear-cut rehabilitation programme. The illegally constructed risky housing facilities would not have found tenants if there were no demand for such accommodation. No matter if the residents there have acted at the instigation of the influential quarters posing their landlords or on their own, the fact remains that they have defied the law of the land. Yet the breaking of law by these people is a lighter crime compared to the people who have illegally taken possession of the government lands by levelling those at the foothill.

The district administration, no doubt, wishes the poor people exposed to landslides well. But it has to take into consideration the reasons behind the desperation demonstrated by them. Better it would be to make an alternative arrangement for safe accommodation of these people first. If they refuse to go there, then the administration can take any action necessary to make them leave the place. At the same time, the administrative monitoring of hill cutting needs to be intensified in order to prevent damage to the hills and the environment. Stringent punitive action can deter the hill grabbers from staking claim to such government property.  

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