Published: 27th May 2020
Faculty cry foul at Illegal encroachment, demolition inside St Stephen's College campus
The members of the governing body also said that the construction activities violate the social distancing norms and that the construction must be stopped immediately
Thirteen members of the St Stephen's College's Governing Body have written a letter to the college's principal, condemning the college's decision to encroach and demolish parts of the college premises — including the children's park and gardens of faculty quarters. The letter says that the action was illegal and violates the college's constitution and asks the principal to stop the ongoing construction activities.
"We are shocked and dismayed to find that since May 22, various arbitrary and illegal actions have been carried out apparently on your instructions. In these testing times of the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, the actions are not only illegal but ill-timed. None of these actions have been sanctioned by the College's Governing Body, the competent sanctioning authority for approving all such projects. These works must be immediately stopped at once," reads the letter.
It also says that a large portion of the gardens of teachers' houses have been encroached upon and the residents weren't informed earlier. "There is illegal encroachment by the construction workers, the retaining wall for soil has been demolished and the boundary hedges which took decades to grow have been uprooted and permanently destroyed," the letter reads.
Nandita Narain, a faculty of the college and a member of the Governing Body says that the decision by the college cannot be justified. "This changes the whole structure of the houses, which includes not just the built up area but the living area around it. When we asked the contractor about this, we were told that they are trying to build a car parking space for 1,000 cars. But the college already has enough space to park cars," she says.
Why is this a violation?
The letter to the principal also states that the encroachment and demolition are against the college's constitution. At the same time, it also violates the social distancing norms, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It points out that 'incurring of capital expenditure without prior approval of the Governing Body of the College violates the College Constitution.' The college's constitution says, "The Governing Body shall decide all questions of capital expenditure and loans." Narain says that none of the 13 members who had signed the letter knew about the encroachment, demolition and construction of a car parking space.
While the lockdown is in place in the country until May 31, the letter reads, "a large number of construction workers have entered the residential premises of teachers in violation of mandatory norms of social distancing during the fourth National Lockdown due to COVID-19 Pandemic announced by the Government of India." They also say that the contractor wasn't able to show them a permission letter from the competent Forest and Tree protection Authorities.
Responding to our queries, the principal of the college said, "There is no substance in the allegation that the work undertaken in College goes against the College Constitution. The Principal is empowered by the Governing Body of the College to proceed with all necessary steps to fulfill the vision and growth of the College. A detailed refutation of the allegation, point by point was provided to the concerned person. Officials from the Forest Department were all praise for the manner in which the flora and fauna were preserved and protected."
Note: This copy was updated with the principal's response