~By Sanjay Ahirwal
Summer has come much earlier this year for the bureaucrats in Haryana. So many of them are out on the roads under the blistering sun, machines in hand, measuring distances. Gone is the comfort of AC offices, the regular breaks and going home on time.
Busy are these diligent men and women, busy saving the liquor shops, the pubs, hotels and restaurants in Gurugram after the Supreme Court’s recent order that all establishments serving alcohol located within 500 m from any highway have to be shut down.
“Operation Save the Drinking Holes” is on at full speed.
The innovativeness is mindboggling, from putting up walls, to opening new entry points and even re-designing roads. Everything is being tried.
No one seems to care that there is one death every four minutes due to accidents on Indian roads. This means there are 360 road deaths every day, a whopping 1,30,000 every year, a majority of these due to drunken driving. And the part of the NH8 highway being saved is known as the “Killer” stretch.
In all fairness, revenue from alcohol is very important for the government. Haryana expects to get Rs 5,700 crore from the sale of liquor, this financial year. Shutting down pubs, restaurants, etc. will also lead to many people losing their jobs and since this writer enjoys the occasional tipple himself, I am hardly the one to propagate.
So to the point maybe, just maybe, the top court and the government of Haryana will also listen to us, the 1,500 people of National Media Centre, law abiding, tax-paying citizens of the state, the country.
In the name of development, two acres of our cooperative residential society was taken. The development allegedly was to expand roads making it more convenient for everyone… yes, everyone but the 1,500 people living in this cooperative housing society… after all, who cares?
So we are boxed in, the entrance to our homes so dangerous it would well become the new “killer” stretch. The only way to get out and go to Delhi is a two kilometre detour, though we live two hundred metres from the Delhi-Gurgaon border. Same is the case while travelling inside Gurgaon. New roads made by DLF-HUDA combine have ensured that the closest exit or entry points for NMC residents should be at least two kilometres away from the Society.
Our fundamental right to a home and living getting crushed between this stretch of road, between Ambience Mall and Cyber Hub.
Why are you here? In this long DLF mile, how do you survive? We thought DLF would have forced and bought this land long ago? Just some of the questions I get asked.
Finally, in 2013, when our green belt was taken to make roads, the writing seemed to be on wall, move or suffer. We are suffering, we saw over a hundred trees cut overnight. We appealed in the green bench of the Supreme Court, but, of course, development is paramount. And in a nation where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, along with his organisation, Art of Living (AOL), can ruin the Yamuna floodplains openly and brazenly, like I said, who cares? In any case, in the case of AOL three panels have cited how they destroyed the floodplains, but Sri Sri’s programme was not stopped.
However, in our case, it’s just 1,500 people versus the corporates and the government. Who cares?
Our homes are largely occupied by senior journalists and professors, I am one of the young ones (I am going to be 50 in four months, so that should give you the average age-group in the colony). We lost land worth Rs 400 crore with no compensation, not a single penny, not once was there any resident participation in any discussion or plan for how expanding roads or getting the DLF intra metro would change our lives. Our case is in the Supreme Court and perhaps we don’t matter in a country of a billon and more?
Our appeals to the NHAI, Ministry of Surface Transport, the very diligent Haryana government departments and officers have fallen on deaf ears.
Just getting to the main road from the National Media Centre is a nightmare from hell, a life threatening exercise we are forced to endure every day.
Can we please not be forced to put our lives on the line every single day just getting out and coming into our colony?
So this appeal is to the honourable Supreme Court. My Lords, you have made government of Haryana work overtime. It is clear that you do have power that easily spreads fear psychosis among governments and corporates.
In this new season of laying and relaying roads, kindly help us get one road, a way that gives us our right to live… comfortable and fearlessly.
—The author is the Managing Editor, NDTV Worldwide