Meghalaya: Punjabi Lane settlers to be relocated to SMB quarters
Group clashes In May 2018 resulted in curfews for over a month

Shillong: The Meghalaya government has decided to relocate 342 families, residents of Punjabi Lane of Them Iew Mawlong area here, to the official quarters of the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB).

However, the old quarters will be demolished later and new five-seven storey flats will be constructed in its place to accommodate the settlers.

Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said the decision was taken after a meeting with Urban Affairs Department Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar and other senior officers on Wednesday.

“After taking into consideration all issues, we have decided to relocate the 342 families of Sweepers’ Colony from Them Iew Mawlong to the existing quarters of the SMB located opposite to the Leader of Opposition’s quarters,” he told reporters.

“The old units will be demolished and a flat system of 12 blocks will be constructed on 2.5 acres of land to accommodate the 342 families. The Urban Affairs Department has been asked to prepare a detailed project report within one-and-a-half months,” he added.

Tynsong said the decision will be conveyed to the Harijan Panchayat Committee (HPC) in a meeting to be held soon.

“We will meet HPC and it is up to them whether or not to accept the government’s decision,” he said.

The deputy chief minister said the government will not accommodate more than 342 families, the list of which has been submitted before the Meghalaya High Court.

The high court is awaiting an out-of-court settlement between the settlers and the state government.

The deputy chief minister said the case pending before the high court will be closed once the matter is resolved.

“Once the state government and HPC agree, we will jointly file an affidavit before the court to close down the case,” he said.

Punjabi Lane is inhabited by people from Punjab, who were brought to Shillong around 200 years ago by the British to work as cleaners and sweepers.

An incident of assault in the area in May 2018 had resulted in group clashes following which it was put under curfew for over a month.

The state government had in July submitted a blueprint to relocate the settlers, whom the administration has identified most of them as “illegal encroachers”, to flats.

The HPC had moved the court seeking a stay on the move to relocate them from Punjabi Lane.

In April, however, the organisation agreed for relocation of the settlers from Them Iew Mawlong on the condition that the state government provides 200 square metres of land to each of the 342 families in the European ward besides bearing the cost of the construction of their homes.

However, several NGOs have opposed the demand, warning that “all hell will break loose” if the demand is accepted when “indigenous poor are left to fend for themselves.”

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