Illegal shrines get in the way

new delhi: the demolition man may rave and rant but the capital is in a construction mode. and especially so in the name of politics and religion. so a tiny stone idol gathers the aura of an "ancient temple", has a fence put around it by "devotees" and then it is housed, tiled and "maintained" as a full-fledged place of worship, right on pavements, along a road or even on service lanes. from tughlaq road to chandni chowk, from janpath to vikas marg, from wide roads to bylanes, one cannot miss the ubiquitous places of worship, be they temple, mosque or mazhar . take the case of the hanuman temple on tughlaq road. expanded, tiled and well-stocked, the structure has grown from a small idol - people claim it has been there since the mughals ruled - to a full-fledged temple in the last five-six years. cars and scooters lined up in front are a common sight, the largest crowds being on tuesday evenings during the rush hour. "this is a proliferating nuisance. besides being a traffic hazard, it is a drain on our manpower," said maxwell pereira, joint commissioner of police (traffic). during his term as union urban development minister, jagmohan had voiced his intention to raze such structures. the idea has failed to materialise and the enforcing agencies find their hands firmly tied. "they are illegal encroachments," said v s sharma, mcd additional commissioner (engineering). "but the issue is a touchy one. demolitions lead to tense situations, with communal overtones," he said. he did not rule out the connivance of mcd officials with the encroachers. sources allege that the agencies are sometimes under political pressure to keep off such structures. agrees ndmc spokesperson madan thapliyal. "there is a clear misuse of land and religious sentiments. but people flock to such places for prayers, leaving us with little support," he said. all these agencies put the ball back into the public's court. a change in attitude is a must. this is a social problem, they say. the traffic police want a policy to check such illegalities. and while we wait for the "change" to happen, the agencies are depending on court orders. once a citizen files a pil against such a structure and wins, the agencies, armed with the order, carry out demolitions much more easily, say officials.

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