Lucknow: The Muslim-dominated Akbarnagar colony in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, is currently in the spotlight. Police forces are stationed at various points in the settlement, and bulldozers are lined up at the Kukrail end of Ayodhya Road, which passes through the area. On December 21st, these bulldozers flattened some shops in the main market of Akbarnagar. Prior to this, 58 houses in the nearby Bhikhampur colony were also reduced to rubble. Responding to the government's actions, residents approached the High Court, resulting in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad Court issuing a stay on the demolition process until January 22, 2024.
Notably, the Yogi government is working urgently on the construction of the riverfront along Kukrail, a tributary of the Gomati River that runs through the city. Approximately 1200 houses and 102 shops in Akbarnagar have been marked for demolition as they are considered illegal structures obstructing the riverfront development. The Mooknayak team visited Akbarnagar Basti to investigate the situation.
Crossing the Kukrail bridge on Ayodhya Road and heading towards Nishantganj, we proceeded down a narrow lane branching off from the main road to the left. This area, known as Akbarnagar-2, is part of Ward-45 of the Municipal Corporation. We spoke to Shaheen Bano, who stood outside her house, expressing distress over the government's demolition of houses. She said, "We have been living here for three generations. Last September, we received notices from LDA (Lucknow Development Authority) and the Municipal Corporation, asking us to vacate the house. Now they are set to demolish our homes. Where can we go?"
Moving further, we encountered Shakuntala Devi. Ramkhilavan, the 60-year-old husband of Shakuntala Devi, also received a similar notice from LDA and the Municipal Corporation. Shakuntala said, "I have five sons. One son has settled outside Akbar Nagar. My husband and I live here with the families of our four sons. Each son has a separate family and kitchen, and they are employed differently. If our house is demolished, where will we go with our family of 40?"
Shakuntala added, "The government considers our family as one unit and is providing only one house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. We paid 5 thousand rupees for its registration, and more installments will follow. This is not just our home but also our source of livelihood. If we are displaced, we will lose our jobs and struggle to pay the housing installment."
Electricity and water were disconnected after the eviction notices, but services were restored after the court's intervention. However, power supply to the shops in the main market has yet to be reinstated. Electricity department personnel have even removed the meters from the shops.
Sunil Kumar, associated with an NGO, mentioned that LDA and the Municipal Corporation had cut off electricity and water connections after serving eviction notices. However, after the court granted relief, these services were resumed. Nonetheless, power supply to the shops in the main market remains suspended. Electricity department officials have removed the meters from the shops.
Imran Raja, an advocate working to legally safeguard the Akbar Nagar settlement from demolition, informed The Mooknayak that notices had been issued to around 1200 homeowners and 102 shop owners by LDA and the Municipal Corporation, even though Akbar Nagar has over 2000 houses, accommodating more than 3000 families. Approximately 25 thousand people will be directly affected by the government's actions, losing their homes and livelihoods. Raja appeals to the government to adopt a humane approach, expressing hope that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will intervene and provide relief to the people of Akbarnagar.
According to government figures, Akbarnagar I and II house 102 shops and showrooms along both sides of Ayodhya Road. About 500 families make their living here, with a significant number engaged in furniture and fabrication businesses. The pressing question is where the LDA intends to relocate these shopkeepers. The people of Bhikhampur have been provided places in Duda Colony and Prime Minister Awas Colony.
The LDA had allotted this land to the Homeless Committee Secretary Bachchu Lal 40 years ago. The settlement, established by the Homeless Committee in 1973, was named Akbarpur after Akbar Ali Khan, the Governor of UP from November 4, 1972, to October 24, 1974. Some people settled around Kukrail were allotted Nazul (government) land by LDA in 1983.
Illegal construction has been ongoing in the Kukrail area for 39 years, but LDA engineers and officers remained inactive. Now that people have built permanent houses, action is being taken against them. Former LDA Secretary Prabhunath Mishra wrote a letter to the Joint Secretary on August 19, 1984, stating that, in addition to the allotted Nazul land, 284 people had illegally constructed and occupied land. Despite this, LDA did not take any action.
Due to the negligence of the Irrigation Department and the Municipal Corporation, houses have been constructed not only on Nazul land but also on vacant land between Kukrail. The Municipal Corporation started collecting taxes from them, and the Electricity Department distributed connections over 40 years.
In Akbar Nagar I and II, displaced people from Kukrail River and Bandhe are being registered under the PM Awas Yojana. The registration fee for this is set at five thousand rupees. A registration camp has been set up near the basti. However, the residents are not keen on this government option. Additional Secretary Gyanendra Verma mentioned that, as of 5 pm on December 23, only 175 people had registered under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and DUDA Housing Scheme. The registration camp will continue until January 21. Local residents of Akbarnagar argue that most people in the colony are daily wage earners who cannot afford the 5 thousand rupees registration fee and subsequent PMAY installments. If the government aims to provide housing after displacing people, it should do so free of cost.