A superintendent with MC, Tarsem Singh Khalsa says he will make Amritsar look like Singapore, free it from all encroachments, ‘provided there is no political interference’ He does not come across as a government servant at first glance. Dressed like a Nihang Sikh, Tarsem Singh Khalsa hits the roads every day to get the city’s public properties freed of encroachment that dot its every nook and corner, paying no heed to political or any other “pressure”. A superintendent with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation, Tarsem has earned the name of “demolition man”. Accompanied by a group of four to five employees, two policemen and a huge crane, he would select one colony, public park or some other site every day and embark upon the difficult task of implementing the law to remove illegal structures, stalls, makeshift shrines and concrete hedges. “I will get the city rid of all encroachments. I will make Amritsar look like Singapore, provided there is no political interference in my work,” says a confident Tarsem. He may sound too ambitious, given the scant regards the influential and the commoners give to norms, but his month-long drive has already started yielding results. With hundreds of illegal structures removed from roads, the flow of traffic is now smoother. “I have full powers to do my job and will not spare anyone, rich or poor. I face a lot of opposition from the public whose structures I raze down, but they have to turn silent when shown the law books,” he says, adding that his life is under threat but he is not scared. He says his target has till now been the small violations that obstruct the flow of traffic and the footpaths illegally occupied by shopkeepers, but he will soon target the big fish, too. His first success was the removal of kiosks (temporary shops), following the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had sought removal of illegal occupants while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL). Successive senior administrative officials and MC functionaries had liberally doled out kiosks, leading to a menace as these temporary structures were gradually becoming permanent. “The administration had been sleeping on the issue. I approached the court, which gave directions to implement the law,” says Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) Vice-Chairman Kirpal Singh Randhawa, who had filed the PIL on rising encroachments in the city. Tarsem, meanwhile, says they will not stop until the desired results are achieved. He admits there are large-scale encroachments in the city. “I hardly come across a house, even in posh colonies, that has not usurped the area outside it. People have made gardens and lawns after constructing concrete and permanent iron hedges on the road in front of their houses. And they are not ashamed. When shown the law books, they try to laugh it away,” says Tarsem, who works as Inspector in the land department of the MC. MC Commissioner D P S Kharbanda says Tarsem is one of their most committed officers and he volunteered to take up the task of removing encroachments. “He has all the support from us. There were strict directions from the High Court and we need to implement the law in its true spirit. We are happy that an officer like Khalsa is doing it with courage,” says Kharbanda. The sailing has, however, not been smooth for Tarsem. “The residents would oppose our drive by pelting stones and abusing us,” he says. Regarding his outfit, Tarsem says he is basically a religious man who listens to Gurbani daily, adding that his attire has been an advantage in his work. “This dress of a traditional Sikh warrior has given me an edge over other officers. People respect me and when I give them reasons quoting law, they listen to me with interest,” he says, caressing his long salt-and-pepper beard with pride.