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Posted at: Jul 8, 2018, 12:40 AM; last updated: Jul 8, 2018, 1:37 AM (IST)

Crackdown, finally

In the past one month, Jalandhar has seen many politicians side with illegal colonisers. And not without a reason
Crackdown, finally

Rachna Khaira in Jalandhar

Jalandhar, the sports city, has finally begun to recuperate from acute abusivismo or the phenomenon of illegal buildings, a syndrome it endured since long. Thanks to Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s whirlwind tour of Jalandhar on June 14 when the minister sought details of over 193 buildings. He has asked Jalandhar mayor Jagdish Raja to submit a comprehensive report on the ownership, nature of violation and also the stakeholders behind the illegal buildings. The Vigilance Department too was roped in to conduct technical inspection of every building that has been mentioned in the list.

How big is the market? 

Over 200 commercial buildings are under scrutiny by the Municipal Corporation Jalandhar and the Vigilance Department. Another 600 shops and kiosks too have been found out to be illegal in various parts of the city. The number of illegal colonies stands at 45, while 96 buildings have been declared non-compoundable.

The modus operandi

An investigation into the modus operandi revealed that realty developers initially buy small chunks of commercial land (up to 14 marlas) in prominent areas and later extend into residential plots (up to 40 marlas) without change of land use (CLU). Interestingly, in Jalandhar, illegal housing projects have come up along the five national highways passing through the district to claim hefty compensation from the National Highways Authority of India.

According to information, the civic body was found to have granted “amnesty” to numerous commercial buildings on the basis of compounding fee. RTI Activist Simranjit Singh said that compounding should be offered in genuine cases. He also pointed out that the Punjab Municipal Act prohibits any amnesty in case of violation in floor to area ratio (FAR), front parking, basement and height. “However, the authorities are blatantly overlooking the law,” he alleged.

Political patronage

Last month, the city witnessed drama when Jalandhar (West) Congress MLA Sushil Rinku and Congress leader Major Singh climbed atop a JCB machine that had come to remove encroachments from an illegal colony on Kala Sanghian road. Later that day, BJP leaders held a press conference and accused Rinku’s wife and Congress councillor, Sunita Rinku, of having a stake in the project. Meanwhile, the MCJ sealed two sky bars that belonged to SAD leader and coloniser Sarabjit Makkar and former president of Punjab NRI Sabha, Kamaljit Hayer.

Congress councillor Mandeep Jassal too dared Sidhu to demolish around 40 shops constructed illegally on Talhan Road. When the demolition squad arrived, he, along with area residents, protested and did not allow them to raze the properties. The McDonald’s restaurant too is reportedly owned by a prominent BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh.  

Buyers in limbo

While Punjab Government has been on a demolition spree for the last few days, the colonisers of these illegal projects continue to sell properties. One such coloniser even took this correspondent to an illegal colony on the pretext of offering a house at an economical price. When asked about the prospect of the colony, the coloniser said, “The storm will die down in some days, but you may not be able to get the house at this price then,” he said.

Minister speak

We are trying to recuperate the state from abusivismo that has destroyed its ecological balance and demography. I have directed my officials to ensure that no illegal building is constructed after March 31 this year.  In many cases, owners were found to have taken hefty loans to construct the building, but they should not expect any amnesty from us. — Navjot Singh Sidhu, Punjab Local Bodies Minister 


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