When an open sewage caused injuries to several citizens of Kashipur, one man decided to repair it himself. However, he soon received a notice from the authorities to remove the construction citing it to be “unauthorised and encroachment on public property”. Here is what followed.
The construction of a railway overbridge in Kashipur, Uttarakhand has resulted in several accidents and mishaps at one of the busiest roads of the city. An open sewage right by the side of the overbridge has added to the people’s woes.
Located at Maharana Pratap Circle, the sewage got damaged due the override construction and has resulted in toppling of several vehicles in it, causing severe injuries.
In December 2020, a school-girl from Government Girls Inter College, Kashipur fell directly into the sewage and faced multiple injuries.
“We keep seeing people fall into the sewage. A lot of the times elderly people fall into the pit and hurt themselves during night time. And almost every day one or the other vehicle would slip into the sewage,” shared Sarjon, manager of Devi Dass Confectionary, a bakery located next to the sewage.
Sarjon also shared that many times he had seen e-rickshaws fall down in the sewage. In addition, the strong stench coming out of the open sewage has been huge trouble for the shop owners nearby.
The construction of the flyover was scheduled to be completed by February 2021, however, by looking at the current state, it seems unlikely that the work will be completed on time.
The construction work has been going on from past three years. It is the main area of the city and sees heavy traffic. People have been facing so many issues and are getting hurt.
The sewage has been a cause of concern for several years now. Especially during the rains, the water from the sewage overflows and even covers the road. People who are not locals don’t know about this sewage, and often fall into it.
Taking ownership of public spaces
Considering the problems faced by the common people, Deepak Bali, a political activist and local resident decided to take the matters into his own hands. On 21st December, 2020, he started the construction to cover up the open sewage on his own.
When the Kashipur municipality found out about this construction, they reached the site and asked Mr Bali to stop the construction. The officials also assured Mr Bali that they will start the construction in 10 minutes. However, there was no work initiated by the municipality for two hours.
“I decided to go ahead and finish the work with my own expense,” shared Mr Bali who also holds the position of Vice President at Aam Aadmi Party, Uttarakhand. Within a few hours the sewage was covered up. Mr Bali spent about Rs 53,000 to finish the work on the sewage.
The backlash by the government
This did not go down well with the local municipality and Mr Bali received a notice from National Highway division of State Public Works Department on 6th January, 2021, citing that this construction was unauthorised and was encroachment on a public space.
The notice also asked Mr Bali to remove the said construction, else the PWD will have to demolish it.
To this, Mr Bali responded: “If thinking about people’s safety is a crime, I am ready to face the punishment. But, I will not remove this construction.”
In a statement given to Dainik Jagran, Usha Chaudhary, Mayor of Kashipur, said that private construction is not allowed in that area and this whole event is politically inspired.
Exercising the constitutional duties
As per the Article 51 A(i) of the Constitution of India, it is the duty of every citizen of India to safeguard public property and to abjure violence. And Mr Bali claimed that he is only exercising is duty as a responsible citizen.
“What we are trying to do is social service. Our work is only helping people, it is not harming anyone. To create an issue out of this is shameful,” said Mr Mayank Sharma, spokesperson, AAP, Uttarakhand.
As far as the local people are concerned, they are delighted that the stinking sewage is now covered up.
“This has been great. The situation has improved a lot. I am thankful that at least someone has done something about it,” said Mr Sarjon.
This whole incident throws light on how a citizen can create a change, irrespective of what the law says. This is a sign of positive protest that we need today. This whole incident could have just been a political fight of words, but rather it became how we can take ownership of public spaces and demand better facilities from the government.
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