We appreciate the recent drive undertaken by the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) against illegal grabbing of land. However, as reported by this newspaper yesterday, the lands recovered by the authorities are soon occupied again by the grabbers, as there is no monitoring mechanism in place. If the department assigned to conduct the drive lacks sufficient resources and manpower, the entire operation risks becoming pointless.
As per this newspaper's report, the RHD in January knocked down approximately 1,700 unauthorised structures and reclaimed 35 acres of its lands. During the same period, according to the department's own data, nearly 1,500 new structures were erected while 20 acres of its land reoccupied. Officials at the RHD cite several reasons as to why they are not being able to sustain their success. Firstly, they say, they have extreme manpower shortage to carry out the drive, let alone monitor the department's lands. It has only four officers authorised to conduct drives in 10 zones covering the whole country. It also takes time to coordinate among several government and law enforcement agencies. What's more, some unscrupulous officials and politically powerful individuals help the grabbers occupy government lands. Therefore, it is difficult to take action against them. The officials already say they are under intense pressure and have even received threats.
That roads and highways are occupied illegally is a longstanding problem. It is often cited as a major cause for road accidents. Illegal structures also complicate city and town planning and cause sufferings for the people. While it is, indeed, commendable that the government is trying to bring discipline on the roads, it should also increase capability, resource and manpower of the relevant agencies so that the drives against illegal land grabbing do not become meaningless.