ENCROACHMENT on government land to put up kiosks (khokhas) and other illegal structures is a perennial nuisance for the administration. Symptomatic of weak governance, it is a source of illicit income for unscrupulous employees of local bodies.
During a grievance redressal committee meeting, a minister sternly told the SDM: ‘The entire city is littered with kiosks and pushcarts. What have you done to remove them? My voters and party workers are angry with me.’ The SDM replied: ‘Sir, I have been trying to remove them, but some politicians are quick to launch an agitation in favour of the vendors. And I have been getting orders from above to stop the khokha removal campaign.’
He dared to add: ‘Last time, you had sat on a dharna with them when you were in the Opposition.’ The minister’s face turned red, but the Deputy Commissioner quickly intervened: ‘SDM sahib, now you should remove them positively within a week.’
There is another khokha tale. A minister waved to the Municipal Corporation Commissioner to stay back after a meeting. I was present during their interaction. ‘Commissioner sahib, I have been telling you for the past six months to let Telu Ram put up his kiosk on the Mall road. He has been our dedicated worker for more than 40 years. What is the problem?’ the minister asked. By that time, he had called Telu Ram and other persons inside the room. The Commissioner looked around and was reluctant to speak. Sensing his hesitation, the minister said: ‘Koi gal nahi, eh saare aapne ee bande ne (these are my men).’ The Commissioner said diffidently: ‘Sir, there are already 50 applicants for the site, which is under litigation. We have initiated eviction proceedings. Only two illegal occupants are there presently. They have got stay orders, and if we allow another kiosk, there will be no end to it and the road located in the most posh area of the city will get choked.’
The minister said angrily:‘Pehlan do kyon laggan ditey? Eh vichara garib kitthe jave? (Why were those two kiosks allowed? Where will this poor man go?)’ The Commissioner suggested: ‘Sir, Telu Ram ji kitte hor jagah dekh lain, nahi taan asin case haar jawange (Sir, he may choose some other site, otherwise we might lose the court case).’
Suddenly, the officer went up to the minister and whispered, though audibly: ‘Sir, shopkeepers have threatened to stage a protest if more kiosks are put up there.’ The adamant minister wondered what difference one more kiosk would make.
A few months later, Telu Ram came to the Commissioner’s office. The minister rang up the officer in his supporter’s presence, complaining that 200 more kiosks had somehow come up on the Mall road but still there was none for Telu Ram. The officer was visibly perturbed. Presently, that area is full of kiosks, with Telu Ram getting the biggest piece of the pie.
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