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Sunday Special » Perspective

Posted at: May 13, 2018, 12:06 AM; last updated: May 13, 2018, 12:06 AM (IST)

‘Officials often collude with builders’

SHIMLA: Yogendra Mohan Sengupta (72) is a human rights and environment activist. He filed a petition in the NGT against construction in the green belts in Shimla and checking the urban mess. It was almost three decades ago that Sengupta fell in love with the Queen of Hills when he first visited the city. Disturbed by the city’s depleting green cover and its growing concrete jungle, he along with his friends decided to raise the problem with the authorities.

Theirs was a five-year-long agonizing and unsuccessful struggle. “Rather than helping us in our fight to save the city, the officials, especially from the Town and Country Planning (TCP) department, tried to create hurdles. For them protecting the interests of builders was paramount,” he says. Sengupta then knocked the doors of the National Green Tribunal in 2014. 

“The woman officer’s death should unite those who care for law and want strict enforcement of rules to save whatever little is left in Shimla,” says Sengupta. His relentless struggle resulted in NGT ordering a complete ban on new construction activity in not just green belts, but the entire core area of Shimla.

“It is very clear that the agencies responsible for enforcing rules are themselves colluding with greedy real estate owners,” he says. This, he says, is substantiated by the fact that the TCP department filed a false report without consulting experts, as directed by the NGT. The green bench had to finally reconstitute the expert committee which was entrusted with the task of preparing the carrying capacity of Shimla hills.

He says TCP officials act as mouthpieces of the builders lobby. “They have tried to create all possible hurdles in our fight, despite the fact that what we have been doing is actually their job,” he says. The government, on the other hand, he says has tried to subvert the court directives by filing a review petition in the NGT. “Rather than acting on the directions of various courts, the government chose to find ways to please the real estate mafia, for reasons best known to them,” he says.

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