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Land acquisition for Orange Line Govt mulls over ‘hefty package’ to woo protesting residents

LAHORE: Following resistance shown against the route of Orange Line Metro Train by the residents of various localities, mainly the Jain Mandir, Kapoorthala House and Katchi Abadi (slum area) of Railway Colony, the government is considering various proposals to find out a solution that could help it acquire the land for the project without any fuss.

Official sources say that since the residents reacted to the government’s land acquisition plan very angrily, various proposals are under consideration these days to appease them and get the job done at the same time.

“Keeping in view the sensitivity of the issue, a majority of the senior officials are of the view that a very handsome compensation package is the only way to acquire land in these areas amicably. So a very good compensation package is likely to be offered to the residents of these localities,” a senior official told Dawn on Tuesday.

The official, who requested anonymity, said though many of the residents have no or incomplete documents to prove their ownership of the property, particularly in Jain Mandir, the government might give them ownership rights first or accept them as legal owners of the property they have been occupying since 1947 or before.

“In Jain Mandir, many residents are either occupying the land on the basis of stamp paper, PT-1 or registration in the survey lists. Others have proper ownership documents (registry etc). So the government feels, particularly at this time, that it should not enter into a another dispute over property ownership documents. Therefore, it may accept all such residents as legal owners of the property and compensate them according to the market value, or may be more than that, of their property,” the official explained.

He said another proposal to give houses to the resident to be displaced by the project as compensation for their property was also under consideration. For this, the government might allocate a piece of state land in some other area of the city for the construction of houses or apartments for the affectees, he added.

“I don’t know whether this proposal is viable or not, it is also under consideration. But one thing I know well that the compensation package will be a handsome one, as the government wants residents’ consent by all means,” the official believed.

Residents of Jain Mandir, Kapoorthala House and Parachute Colony, a slum area in the Railway Colony, have been staging protests since the government announced its land acquisition plans about a month back.

In some of these protests have also been joined by the civil society activists who believe that the proposed Orange Line route was a threat to city heritage, urging the government to change it and save various heritage sites from harm and residents from displacement. “According to our information, as many as 400 houses situated in Jain Mandir and adjoining areas — Bangali building, Auqaf and Evacuee Trust Property Board quarters/flats, Ahata Baba Wazeeran, Kapoorthala House, Katcha Lake Road, GPO Colony etc — are set to be acquired,” he said.

He said though various political leaders of the PML-N had approached the residents, the government was yet to announce the compensation package.

At Jain Mandir and Kapoorthala House, hundreds of houses will reportedly be acquired for the construction of 1.72km underground portion of the Orange Line track employing ‘cut-and-cover’ method. Similarly, at Parachute Colony, the government will have to demolish as many as 40 houses on the train track to link Boharwala Chowk (Metro Train Station/Railway Station stop) with the intersection before the UET station via Sultan Pura station.

Talking to Dawn, Asif Ali, a resident of Katcha Lake Road (near Jain Mandir) said all the residents were united to save their property.

He said since the Lahore High Court had already stayed the land acquisition process in Kapoorthala House, the residents of Jain Mandir, Katcha Lake Road etc were also planning to move the court. He said the government wanted to hold a meeting with the residents and other stakeholders at a local hotel on Dec 3 (tomorrow).

“What the government will offers us, we don’t know yet, we can make a decision only after the announcement of government’s compensation package,” Ali added.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2015