How KJ Alphons became the demolition man of Delhi

Alphons razed thousands of illegal buildings. His experience as a bureaucrat will be handy in his assignment as a minister

rahul

Rahul Dass | September 4, 2017


#KJ Alphons   #cabinet reshuffle   #politics  
(Photo: Facebook/@KJAlphons)
(Photo: Facebook/@KJAlphons)

The year was 1994. “Aaj kahan (Where today),” I asked a source in the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) who told me to reach a certain place. And even before you reached the spot, you knew it was the right place, with a posse of police personnel standing guard and half a dozen earth moving machines ready to move in.
 
And on receiving the go ahead from a then young IAS officer, the demolition would begin in right earnest.
 
That officer was KJ Alphons who was inducted into the cabinet by prime minister Narendra Modi on Sunday. He is the first BJP leader from Kerala to get ministerial berth.
 
Alphons then was commissioner (land and projects) of the DDA and he was a no-nonsense officer. Despite rubbing political heavy weights the wrong way, he continued with the demolition drive.
 
He was completely undeterred. As reporters we would try to glean information from him and he would patiently explain the demolition was important as it was encroachment on DDA land. “What about political pressure,” we asked and he would answer with a wry smile: “I am just doing my job.”
 
Alphons standing near the heavy machinery became a common and a very welcome sight. A few may have been unhappy about it, but people largely welcomed it. He had the support of the common people who were always eager to know where he would strike next.
 
He did not have an imposing physique, but he certainly had a towering personality. Amid the shouting and screaming of the people who owned the illegal buildings, he would look on calmly. He would not listen to anyone. In a way, it was a bit of monkish attitude.
 
During his stint with the DDA, he recovered over 1,100 acres of DDA land that had been valued well over Rs 10,000 crore. According to an estimate, he demolished more than 14,000 illegal buildings.
 
In 2013, Alphons Kannanthanam, delivered a lecture on Thursday on the theme of Bureaucracy and Politics in India as part of 'India Ki Khoj', an initiative of IIT-Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) where students from IIT-Gn and California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) participated.
 
He said: “I was told that it was difficult to demolish the buildings in Delhi where many of them were owned or financed by bigwigs. However I went ahead and demolished them. Back then, it was easy to find your own way as I made it clear that I am servant to nobody but part of civil services. If we have will to do something right, nobody can stop us.
 
I have shattered beliefs about prejudices, efficiency and support from the lower staff. Likewise, we set goal to make the education in Kerala the best - not in the country, but in the world. People believed in my dreams and supported me.”
 
So, it came as a bit of a shock when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in 2015 stayed all demolitions in the capital barring those being pursued as per court orders. The government had decided to review the existing policy governing demolitions, which it intended to complete as soon as possible. Till then, various agencies associated with carrying out such demolitions in Delhi were cautioned against carrying these out, reported The Hindu.
 
 
When I read that report, I wondered what Alphons, the demolition man of Delhi, would have thought about it.
 

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