June 2019 News

Police Protection Withdrawn A Year Ago, LAWDA's Demolition Squad Faces Regular Assaults

23 June 2019
Kashmir Reader
Nazima Sidiq

Srinagar: Lack of police force for protection of demolition squads of the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) is hampering efforts to curb illegal construction in and around the besieged Dal Lake. Since June last year, the government has withdrawn an exclusive police force meant for protection of LAWDA's demolition squads. This, according to officials, has resulted in harassment, injuries, and abuse of personnel. The department has 15 demolition squad workers who are mandated to carry demolition of any illegal structures in the department's jurisdiction, which includes Dal Lake and notified areas around it. Demolition squad members at LAWDA told Kashmir Reader that they face the wrath of locals and are powerless to resist it in the absence of police back-up. 'There is risk of losing our life, as the violators assault us. Many members were injured a few weeks ago in an incident. Earlier, when police was accompanying us, they could not do anything. But for the past one year we are scared, sometimes even skipping demolition drives for fear of being attacked,' said the squad members, who did not wish to be named. 'In the department we don't even have a first-aid facility. Every day we are risking our lives in the line of duty. Many a time we have approached higher authorities for first-aid facility but no one is paying any heed to our problems,' they said. They further said that their work ran smoothly up to the month of June 2018, when they had nearly 30 Jammu Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP) personnel to guard them during their work. 'We need a 24X7 force with us as sometime we go for demolition drives early in the morning or late in the evening,' the squad members said. At present, the squads have to call for police protection in case of need, which often arrives too late from the Police Control Room. 'Often, police force is not available to be sent to our help,' said one of the squad members. 'Apart from lacking police protection, we are also facing shortage of manpower in the demolition squad. We are just 15 persons responsible for the whole Dal, a number that is just not sufficient,' he added. Sajad Hussain, Vice Chairman of LAWDA, told Kashmir Reader that his department has many times approached higher authorities on this matter but nothing has been done as yet.