Monday, September 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mockery of Town Planning Act?
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

By allowing the construction of two storey buildings in sinking and sliding zones of the state capital, the government has not only made a mockery of the town planning but also put lives of those who will live in such houses to risk.

The sinking and sliding hills are, by definition, unstable and unfit for raising any kind of structure. Over the past two decades several buildings have collapsed here and, in fact, the government has spent crores of rupees to stabilise the sinking northern side of The Ridge and the Lakkar Bazar area. Not only that, it abandoned a project to install a lift from the ice skating rink to The Ridge as initial excavations triggered off a huge landslide threatening The Ridge, where the main water reservoir of the town in located.

The condition, that buildings with only lightweight material will be permitted is an eyewash as once the construction is allowed there is no stopping. Building norms have been violated in and around Shimla with impunity. The government has only encouraged the offenders by coming out with one policy after the other to regularise unauthorised structures.

The decision has not come as a surprise as the Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, has himself declared that the government will do all that is within its means to win the Assembly elections. Over the past two months a number of such decisions have been taken to woo the electorate.

Only last month the government had announced policy for the regularisation of over unauthorised 3000 buildings in the peripheral areas, which were taken out from the Shimla Municipal Corporation early this year. It is a virtual bonanza for the offenders with the government allowing regularisation of single storey structures at meagre compounding fee of Rs 2500, two-storeys for Rs 3500, three storeys for Rs 4500 and four storeys for Rs 5500.

The unauthorised storeys beyond the specified limit will be regularised at the rate of Rs 250 per sqm. The builders will be able to retain the unauthorised structures without having to pay the deterrent penalty.

Earlier it permitted construction in the restricted and core areas. Initially construction on plots of minimum 250 sqm was allowed. However, within days the limit was reduced to 150 sqm. Not only that some other areas were made part of the core area to facilitate construction.

The policy of giving reprieve to those who have constructed buildings in blatant violation of the Town and Country-Planning Act being pursued by the Dhumal government only goes prove that votes are more important than rules, regulations and propriety.

Politicians like environmentalists, have been lamenting over the degeneration of hills into concrete jungle but when it comes to taking decisions they always side with the violators of law. Such policies may or may not help the BJP win the elections but they will certainty spell doom for the “queen of hills”.

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