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Illegal hotels come up in city as building bylaws go for a toss

Illegal hotels come up in city as building bylaws go for a toss

An illegal building in Town Hall area in Amritsar. File photo



Tribune News Service

Charanjit Singh Teja

Amritsar, March 1

Under-construction illegal hotels in the walled city area have raised queries over the functioning of the Municipal Corporation. After a ban on construction imposed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2012, around 800 illegal hotel buildings have come up and became functional in the last 10 years. The Akali, Congress and now AAP governments failed to curb the practice and even took no action against the MC officials for allowing the gross violation of building bylaws and directions of the court.

These hotels not only violate the building bylaws but burden water, sewer and street infrastructure and pose high risk to human lives. There are several multi-storied hotels, constructed in 3-feet wide streets. In case of a fire incident or any such crisis, residents would be at major risk. The Chief Vigilance Officer of the Local Bodies Department identified a few such hotels in its report last month but no action has been taken by the municipal corporation.

These 800 hotels have been constructed without the approval of building plans and the state government and MC didn’t get any revenue from the construction of these hotels. However, the officials of Municipal Corporation are major beneficiaries of the situation. The Municipal Town Planning wing officials reportedly fixed the price of each storey. The building owners paid lakhs as bribe to complete construction. Ironically, almost 500 hotels have been sealed by the MC from time to time but almost all are now functional. Others, where the MC has conducted partial demolition, were reconstructed.

A 10-storey hotel in the Town Hall area badly damaged the skyline of multi-crore projects of Heritage Street and Partition Museum. The owner of the under-construction Hotel Savera managed the fire certificate even though it was sealed by MC. With the connivance of MTP wing officials, the hotel owner got approval of a three-storey building plan but constructed nine storeys and a basement. Each hotel has a tale of corruption and eyewash actions by the MC during the last few years.

The walled city witnessed construction of a number of hotels around Golden Temple from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, a local resident Advocate Sarabjit Singh Verka surveyed such illegal hotel buildings and filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Punjab Haryana High Court against 105 illegal hotels around the Golden Temple. The High Court banned the approval of building plans in the walled city and asked to stop the illegal construction in 2012. A three-member SIT formed by the government found 125 illegal hotels. Then the government enacted the Amritsar Walled City (Recognition of Usage) Act to regularise the hotels in 2016. A total of 352 illegal hotels submitted applications for regularisation but the High Court stayed operation of the Amritsar Walled City Act and directed to take action against hotels in 2019.

Sarbjit Singh Verka, the petitioner, said, “The case had moved in the Supreme Court, when a hotel owner got interim stay in 2020. The hearing is pending in the Supreme Court now. But more than 800 hotels have been constructed and became functional by violating the court directions.”

Dr Balwinder Singh, noted architect, said, “The character of the city has changed with the construction of new hotels. The centuries-old buildings have been demolished to construct hotels. Our institutions have failed to preserve the glory of Guru Ki Nagari.”

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