A municipal excavator tearing down shops built inside Khula Manch on Saturday. Photo: Republica
KATHMANDU, April 29: It had been just about five months since Sujan Tamang, 27, of Nuwakot, submitted the first installment of money for setting up a shop in Khula Manch, the open air theater at Tundikhel. What remains of his shop now is mangled roofing sheets.
Tamang’s fruit shop was one among the 40 illegal shops built beside the temporary bus park that were demolished by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) office on Saturday.
Tamang claimed to have paid Rs 70,000 as the first installment and Rs 700,000 thereafter for finally getting an agreement for setting up his shop in the public space currently being used as a bus park.
“We were deprived of our property on Saturday,” he said, “We have been deprived of justice.” He claimed that the shopkeepers association of the area is currently holding talks with KMC for compensation.
“Even though we had signed an agreement with the KMC for the land, we did not submit the amount to them directly,” he told Republica, “The shopkeepers submitted the amount to some contractors of the metropolis.” He refrained from telling who the contractors were in the hope that they could still get a compensation.
Manamaya Gurung, 39, of Dolakha invested her life’s savings to open an apparel shop at Khula Manch. She said that she had paid about Rs 100,000 in the first installment, Rs 1.1 million in the second installment, and was supposed to pay an additional Rs 300,000 for “acquiring” the shop.
“I was even paying a monthly rent of Rs 20,000,” she claimed, “Now, all my life’s savings have gone.”
She said that two middlemen of the contractors - Raju Shrestha and Gyan Prasad - had collected the amount from her. Shrestha did not like to come in telephone contact with this scribe.
Gurung informed Republica that the duo asked all the Khula Manch shopkeepers on Friday to tell everyone that they had not paid any sum to the metropolis. “Even when I was asked by various journalists if I paid any sum, I refrained from telling,” she said, “Had we told everything, we would not have been defrauded.”
The KMC on Saturday demolished 52 structures built illegally on the public land at Khula Manch in the heart of the capital city. However, locals claim that 12 shops were spared the iron fist of the metropolis after allegedly offering a bribe.
The move by the metropolis came amid public pressure against the construction of those structures at Khula Manch for business purpose. Structures such as toilets, canteens and public bus ticket counters built in the area were not affected by the action.
Earlier, a section of social activists had submitted a memorandum to the KMC’s Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi, demanding that the illegal structures built at Khula Manch be demolished.
On Friday, KMC Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya had asked Deputy Mayor Khadgi to inspect the structures built on the encroached public land at Khula Manch. Khadgi was supposed to submit a report of the inspection on Sunday but Mayor Shakya took the decision to demolish the structures on Saturday before Khadgi could submit the report.
Deputy Mayor Khadgi told this scribe on Sunday that a probe committee formed by the metropolis is currently looking into the controversy.
KMC had taken half the open space at Khula Manch when it shifted the Old Bus Park there. The move was widely criticized and seen as an encroachment of the public land in the pretext of setting up a temporary facility. Bir Hospital and Durbar High School have also constructed prefab structures on the public space. While the hospital has the purpose of running an emergency field hospital there, the Chinese contractor of the school has built its field office there.