Concerns over restrictions near Raj Nivas

‘The political differences between the Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister cannot make the life of public difficult’

Several citizens have expressed concern over the continued imposition of Section 144 in the Raj Nivas area, even weeks after the conclusion of the agitation led by the Congress and allies seeking the recall of Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi.

Central forces had been called in on an unprecedented scale ahead of the day/night agitation on January 8. Though the agitation was shifted to the Anna Statue on the plea of the administration, the area around the Raj Nivas continues to be barricaded, causing hardship to citizens.

On Friday, the Forum for Social Harmony wrote to District Collector Purva Garg, urging her to lift the restrictions and withdraw the Central forces.

The decision to impose Section 144 in the area had created enormous hardship to the public, especially the old and the sick who visited the Government General Hospital, Cluny Hospital and Ashram Nursing Home.

Apart from those visiting hospitals, these restrictions were causing inconvenience to a large number of elderly people residing in the White Town area, S. Ramachandran, co-ordinator of the forum, said in the letter.

For the last five years, the forum used to observe Martyr’s Day near the Gandhi Statue. “We had sought permission to conduct a pledge ceremony at the Gandhi Statue on Saturday. We were shocked to learn that the police had refused permission. The ceremony was then shifted to Anna Statue,” he said.

Significantly, the restrictions remain despite Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy directing the removal of the barricades.

Former Minister and DMK secretary (north wing) S.P. Sivakumar has already issued a strong statement against the barricading of roads near Raj Nivas.

Founder member of People for Pondicherry’s Heritage Kakoli Banerjee, in a statement, said, “We were facing the blockade near Raj Nivas for the last few years. As if this was not enough, we are now made to feel like tresspassers in our own city if we try to access public roads around Bharati Park. We are not sure why the public space has been taken over. The political differences between the Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister cannot make the life of the public difficult.”

Access to the road leading to the Ashram mess has become difficult. There are senior citizens residing in the Ashram, she said. “The Ashram community consists of many elders. Their movements are severely restricted as the dining hall is next to Raj Nivas. People of Pondicherry are quiet, peace loving people. These high-handed restrictions to our free- dom of movement will create more ill-will,” she said.

Bitasta Samantaray, member of Pondy Can, in a statement, said the residents of the area had never before witnessed such restrictions. “People who are living here have not never seen such restrictions. People who have created such inconvenience owe us an explanation.”

Area for residents

Sunaina Mandeen, co-founder, PondyCan, said the issue highlighted the need to shift government establishments, including the Secretariat, the Assembly and Raj Nivas, from the Boulevard area. “The area should be left to the residents,” she added.

When the issue was raised at a press conference a few days ago, the District Collector responded that the decision would be revisited, based on the law and order situation assessment by the police.

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