SHILLONG, June 27 - The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis today urged the Meghalaya Government not to relocate the residents of the Punjabi Harijan Colony till the High Court gives its verdict and the high-level committee (HLC) submits its report on the issue.
After holding discussions with State Government officials and members of the colony, Commission member Jagadish Hiremani said that the State Government should wait for the High Court verdict and the HLC report.
�The municipal board is issuing notices to the residents. Then what is the role of the HLC? The Court has also stated that the residents should not be removed from their present location. The Government should wait for the verdict of the Court on this matter,� Hiremani said. The municipal board was tasked by the HLC to serve inventory survey notices to the residents recently.
The HLC seeks to identify the credentials of the residents in the area as there are reports of several illegal settlers residing there.
On the other hand, the Meghalaya High Court is hearing three cases relating to the Punjabi Harijan Colony. The hearing will take place on Friday and the judgment is awaited.
Advocating the rehabilitation of the residents in the present location, Hiremani said the State Government should try to provide better health, educational and housing facilities to the residents with the assistance of the Centre.
According to the Commission member, the residents were brought to the State as safai karamcharis during the British era and subsequently, were allowed to stay at the present location by the local king of that time.
�They have been staying there for 200 years and have served the people of the State for all these decades now. Why are they being moved from their place of stay?� he asked.
Hiremani stated that he would compile a report on his visit to the State and submit it to the State and the Central Governments soon.
To a question, the national panel member said that poor civic amenities are not confined to the Punjabi Harijan Colony alone, but several other parts of the State too. �So why are the residents of only this colony being tried to be relocated?� he maintained.
Stating that issues of rights over land relating to safai karamcharis prevail in several parts of the country including Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, such cases have been settled amicably except in Meghalaya.
He pointed out that the Supreme Court in its 1972 verdict said that the safai karamcharis and manual scavengers must be rehabilitated by providing housing facilities, employment opportunities, training and education.
�These residents should have been rehabilitated since 1972-�73. Though it was not done then, we want that they should be allowed to stay in their present location now,� he reiterated.
Meanwhile, during his visit to the colony, Hiremani interacted with residents and also recommended to the State Government to allow reopening of shops in the area.