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Jamnagar :: Khambhaliya brings back memories of quake Friday, December 7, 2001

RAJKOT: If a newcomer were to visit Khambhaliya on Thursday and, at first glance, come to the conclusion that it is a quake-ravaged town, he cannot be blamed.

Three days of sustained demolitions using bulldozers have left tonnes of rubble lying all over the town.

Almost 1.24 lakh sq feet of land has been cleared of illegal structures by the operation led by Jamnagar Collector Rohit Pathak and SP Satish Verma.

Remarked a senior police officer who did not wish to be identified, "It seems that the entire Khambhaliya town is located on illegal land! It now resembles a war-ravaged town after so much of demolitions."

Even as the operation continued unabated for the third day, many leading politicians made a representation before Chief Minister Modi, who visited Bhanvad in Jamnagar district in the morning. They urged Modi to ensure that the demolition drive is called off. But sources travelling with the chief minister told 'The Times of India' that while the CM gave a patient hearing, he had made no commitment.

Jamnagar has two representatives in the Modi ministry - Mulu Bera and Chiman Saparia. But surprisingly, both haven't visited Khambhaliya or even sent their emissaries. The 'affected' whose buildings have been pulled down include BJP leaders.

Some leading local residents who tried frantically to reach the ministers on their mobile phones found them switched off.

Highly-placed sources revealed that SP Verma, who was busy with the 'bandobast' during the chief minister's visit to Bhanvad, had summoned his men and the revenue staff overseeing the demolition work to his office at 6 am on Thursday.

He instructed them to resume the demolition work and as soon as Modi left the place, Verma was back at the demolition site.

Both Verma and Pathak have ruthlessly gone about the task of clearing the illegal constructions, some of which were 10 years old. As many as 20 properties, mostly belonging to people belonging to the Lohana and Bhatiya communities, who had not bothered to look after their ancestral wealth at Khambhaliya, had been targeted by the land grabbers.

Their modus operandi was simple. Some of the houses were lying unopened for almost four to five years and taking advantage of the situation, the land sharks tampered with the land records after taking into confidence the officials concerned.

With the help of court document writers evidence was fabricated showing the properties being sold off to unknown buyers and their 'repurchase' by the land grabbers.

None of the actual owners, whose property had changed hands, knew of the goings on in Khambhaliya. Some advocates also played a dubious role in sustaining the racket.

Verma said some of the worst-affected areas included Barcha Street, Char Rasta, Station Road and Bangdi Bazar. Some government lands were also encroached upon by these gangs led by anti-social elements, smugglers and mafia leaders.

The district administration is now contemplating applying PASA provisions on those who had tampered with the land records.

Meanwhile, in Thursday's operation, 'Pratap Villa', a hotel and residence complex allegedly owned by Khambhaliya taluka panchayat chief P S Jadeja, was demolished. It stood on government land.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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