Open house: What steps should be taken to check illegal constructions in the city? : The Tribune India

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Open house: What steps should be taken to check illegal constructions in the city?

Simplify approvals, recover cost from encroachers

Open house: What steps should be taken to check illegal constructions in the city?

Unauthorised construction should be demolished at any cost and the demolition charges should be recovered from the defaulters. File photo

In order to check illegal constructions in the city, the first thing that should be done is to check corruption in the Municipal Corporation. MC officials who accept bribes and allow illegal constructions in the city should be immediately removed. Also, only MC officials who are bold should be deputed for the purpose. This is because of the fact that lenient officials, after receiving warnings or coming under political pressure, shy away from shouldering their responsibilities which causes the land mafia to flourish. Last but not the least, more strict laws are needed whereby provision for immediate action against violators needs to be made and also their compliance ensured.

Sanjay Chawla

Question for next week

A pack of stray dogs mauled a 32-year-old woman to death in a Kapurthala village recently. There has been a sizable increase in the cases of dog attack across the state. What should be done to check rising dog bite cases and curb the menace of stray canines?

Suggestions in not more than 200 words can be sent to [email protected] by Thursday (Feb 15)

Construct high-rise buildings outside city

Kote Baba Deep Singh (known before as Kote Khan Mohammed Shah), where I have been living since 1942, is easily one of the first colonies planned by the British, on the outskirts of the walled city which was in those days surrounded by hundreds of orchards of guavas, pear, loquat, mangoes etc. I have witnessed reckless constructions here and there without any approval from town planners. Most residential houses used to be of a single storey, and covered galleries were strictly illegal. When this legal restriction was relaxed by the municipal authorities, the structures became three, four or five storied and occupied three feet of space into the streets as covered galleries on each side of the road. Development saw the emergence of new colonies on the land which was earlier under fruit orchards. However, almost all these colonies were illegal in that they didn’t provide for proper access, water supply, sewerage or electricity. The practice continued for four or five decades, with the result that suburbs of the city wasted more agricultural land and inflicted unplanned and unmanageable growth everywhere. The colonisers made quick money and disappeared to repeat the process elsewhere. It is heartening to note that the AAP government has disallowed any more illegal settlements, though everyone knows the land mafia has very long tentacles. The present government has decided to do away with the requirement for NOC for getting certificates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Local Government for plot holders in regularised colonies. I think PUDA and Amritsar Development Authority (ADA) should now encourage high-rise structures outside the walled city and provide flats. This is the best way to use land for efficient housing and save the environment too. Overhead wires too should be made underground.

Prof Mohan Singh

Unauthorised construction should be demolished at any cost and the demolition charges should be recovered from the defaulters. File photo

Simplify building plan approval

Neither the Improvement Trust nor the Punjab Urban Development Corporation (PUDA) has got constructed townships/colonies in the last one or two decades. PUDA had auctioned some commercial and residential plots in the past but failed to get constructed new colonies and duly approved townships. Some colonisers have got their colonies approved by the government and have sold out their plots at high premium to the buyers with a positive note of approved colony. PUDA has acquired land in many areas for sale of approved plots by approving the colonies but that areas were sold by private players in the end and the rest is known to all. Having no option for the buyers, they purchase plots/flats at high prices from the private players and soon the areas yield high profit to the buyers. The Town Planning Department of the Municipal Corporation is razing illegal constructions, but interestingly, there are no easy laws/bylaws to get the approval for your building from the competent authorities to construct their houses. Yet the state government has not approved that the submission of house building plans be cleared on priority basis after the fee is deposited as prescribed under law within a stipulated period.

Rajat Kumar Mohindru

Assign unique IDs, check misuse of buildings

Cities are often plagued with illegal constructions, attributed to factors like overpopulation, homelessness and poverty. The consequences of illegal constructions are dire and can lead to legal complications, economic stagnation and safety hazards for the occupants and public alike. The local civic body, usually the Municipal Corporation (MC), and the state government must work together to establish strict laws and a sound legal framework to regulate land use, development plans, construction work, penalty system and the demolition drive. To combat illegal construction, the MC can collaborate with residents welfare associations and Google Maps to assign unique IDs to each property unit. The MC must not approve any building plan that violates laws and should maintain strict vigilance to prevent unapproved illegal construction. The MC must be prepared to demolish illegal structures with or without police assistance and without any interference from local politicians. It is crucial to follow laws and regulations strictly and avoid any favouritism at any stage. If any illegal structure comes into existence due to the nexus between builders and officials, it should be demolished under videography and its clip should be circulated on social media to warn the offenders. Additionally, if someone is found guilty, he or she should be blacklisted and not be allowed to buy any new property or land. Additionally, it is critical to complete all necessary paperwork with genuine charges before starting construction and ensure that there is enough space left for the movement of traffic. Finally, keeping an eye on old and dilapidated buildings that can collapse unexpectedly is also necessary to prevent drug addicts, suppliers and criminals from misusing them for illegal activities.

Dr Kulwant Singh Phull

Recover demolition cost from encroachers

Illegal construction without valid permission is almost everywhere. Encroachment of the pavement and parking space by the shopkeepers is a common sight. Encroachments can have major environmental implications. Nobody is there to keep a check on them. The rehris are there on the pavements, there is hardly any place left for walking, no place to park the vehicles. Slums and shanties are expanding day by day due to overpopulation and homelessness. Construction work without any valid permit is the result of bribery. Unauthorised construction should be demolished at any cost and the demolition charges should be recovered from the person concerned. The Municipal Corporation should have the power to stop and cease the unauthorised construction and even the land should be confiscated. Water and electricity should be disconnected but with the influence that the encroachers wield, it gets restored. The employees concerned should also be booked and penalised. Local media and social activists can play an important role in raising the issue. Rehris should be allotted a particular site and not just allowed to be set up everywhere.

Shashi Kiran

Crumbling infra taking toll on human lives

Rampant encroachments on roads, markets and even at vital public places is a common sight in all cities and towns. Influential persons often flout the regulations in connivance with corrupt officials. So much so, drainage channels, water reservoirs (ponds) and parks meant for the community are illegally occupied. Even pedestrian passages and lands reserved as green belts in localities are not spared by the encroachers. Construction bylaws are openly defied in all big or small cities. Much to the inconvenience of residents at large, some houses in purely residential colonies are being converted into commercial sites. Some demolitions are later carried out by the Municipal Corporations only when people express their resentment against such unauthorised constructions or encroachments. Ironically, there is seldom any check at the initial stage to prevent illegal structures from being erected, which causes huge losses on its removal besides embarrassment to the general public. While many property dealers mint money by developing colonies without providing proper facilities, the desperate residents are subjected to numerous ordeals like narrow lanes and lack of sewerage disposal outlets, resulting in flooding of the approach roads with dirty waters, which many a time enters the houses and causes serious ailments. Ironically, the plight of a “smart city”’ like Jalandhar too is not different as the crumbling city infrastructure is taking a toll on human lives. For all this mess, the municipal authorities are squarely responsible, but no accountability is fixed on the officials for the dereliction of duties assigned. Evidently, there is an absolute need to act proactively to check all sorts of encroachments and unauthorised colonisation. There should be no compromise with the mandatory provisions while granting approvals, Civic societies and RWAs may invariably be involved to ensure planned and quality development. In larger public interest, the government will have to take stern action against the organised land mafia and the officials conniving with them to tackle the menace of illegal constructions and encroachments.

Nirmaljit Singh Chatrath

Create map with areas clearly delineated

Illegal constructions can be a challenge to the government’s authority over a district or city. They are often used as a display of power by individuals who believe that they are above the law. Such constructions are considered unlawful and pose a threat to the safety of people living in the area. When such constructions are demolished, many of the innocent residents of those illegal properties go on strike and consider the government as a threat which is a hazard to democracy and the administration. The government needs to prevent any sort of illegal claiming of public property and land and fix the state of affairs. Some possible ways can be to keep an up-to-date map of the entire city with a detailed description of every street in cities like Jalandhar and give a detailed description of areas under the rule of the government, areas that have been taken illegally and unidentified areas. This map should be updated each month for up-to-date data and constant checks on the activities of the city. Then step by step, conduct raids on the illegal buildings and unidentified locations to bring the law offenders to justice. Along with that, an increase in the number of honest policemen is crucial for a swift, smooth and steady carrying out of the plan. If any group is discovered to be engaged in illegal activities or just simply living in that region under false influence, a comprehensive investigation is necessary to locate the core issue and to find out the actual culprits. Any sort of illegal encroachment on public properties should be checked at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid confrontation with illegal occupants after their long stay at a particular place even if there is an ongoing legal battle in the court about the ownership of the land. The administration should approach the court to take undertakings from the claimants for handing over the vacant possession peacefully after adverse judgment. Public announcements in such types of localities should be regularly done by the administration to make people aware of the illegal encroachers that their possession is subject to the decision of the court. No new constructions should be allowed in any manner in such localities. In case of any such endeavour, appropriate application should be made to the court to stop such constructions.

Lakshit Jindal

Go for people-oriented master plans

After excise and taxation, it is the housing sector that generates maximum revenue for any state government. However, despite having well-defined housing organisations like the urban development authorities, Municipal Corporation, Improvement Trust, Mandi Board, regularised private colonies and real estate regulatory authorities, we still find problems like the haphazard development of cities, encroachments on roads or common land. News like ‘Government to regularise illegal colonies’ or ‘Notices served to residents for encroachments’ etc are quite common. Should we start saying that every resident is corrupt or there is a “chalta hai” attitude among residents? The answer is “No”. The real reason is the obsolete urban development or town planning laws and mass illiteracy among residents about urban laws which leads to encroachments. People often make illegal buildings with the mindset that no one comes here to check things or if their neighbour has built an illegal structure, they too tend to copy. Basically, what is required is that there should be uniformity in building rules among all development authorities and a single common town planning department that should prepare master plans and all urban development authorities should follow that. Also, there should be sufficient provision for recreational activities in every master plan. We often see people holding family functions by blocking roads. Now the question is: where will the people hold such type of family functions if there is no proper place in their colony. The answer is making sustainable people-oriented master plans by providing provisions for a community centre, religious institutions, playing grounds, green parks, bus stands, obituary grounds, forest lands, swimming pools, schools etc. This will certainly reduce the chances of encroachments. Similarly, building laws like compulsory leaving the rear or front setbacks in houses should be changed with time. There are certain booths where even drinking water supply is not permissible by the urban authorities in Punjab. Now can booth owners compete in a market where so much competition is there and sewerage connection has not yet been provided there? Therefore, urban policies should be dynamic and convenient to residents and simultaneously sustainable environmental components should be an integral part of these policies. Residents’ participation while making policies is a must to make it a bottom-up approach. This will certainly reduce illegal encroachments and bring value to those living in urban areas.

Harvinder Singh Chugh

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