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Sunday Special » Perspective

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

Unholy nexus clogs Holy City’s periphery

Charanjit Singh Teja in Amritsar

The biggest migration to cities in post-Independence Amritsar seems to have happened during militancy. This set the tone for vast colonisation in and around the city. Most of those who migrated from villages settled on the outskirts. The settlements were to be subsequently termed illegal colonies. Migration to the city has not stopped in the past two decades due to sporadic tension along India-Pakistan border in the region.

Cashing in on the demand, realty dealers developed hundreds of colonies around the city in two decades. According to the data of Punjab Planning and Urban Development Authority (PUDA) and Local Government Department, there are 461 illegal colonies in the Holy City. Needless to say, providing basic amenities to residents of these localities is not the priority of the colonisers.

The realty business witnessed a boom during 2002-07. A large number of developers from New Delhi camped in the city and developed large colonies on Jalandhar Road. The local property dealers too lured investors by selling the dream of doubling their investments overnight. 

Officials of Amritsar Development Authority say that some of these colonies have been developed over merely one acre. Ignoring PUDA's rules and regulations, the colonisers developed residential colonies, most of which lack sewerage and water supply, proper roads, parks and greenbelt facilities.  The rise of realty sector empowered property dealers, a number of whom later turned politicians; among them were MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla, Krishan Kumar Kuku, Joginderpal Dhingra, Billa Councillor, Amu Gumtala and Gurpreet Singh. Likewise, many councillors became part-time property agents. Several aides of former local bodies minister Anil Joshi have become wealthy by venturing into the business during the last decade. Some of these were elected councillors.

Sanjeev Rampal, president of the Punjab Majha Zone Colonisers and Property Dealers Association, said real estate business can’t be carried on without political support. “A common man can't even sell mud from his land because police immediately registers a case. How can one sell property without political support? The high number of unauthorised colonies reflects the failure of the government in providing houses to the burgeoning population.” 

Over the years, several illegal colonies have become densely populated localities. The MC has installed sewerage lines under the Japan International Cooperation Agency project and provided water supply to several illegal colonies within MC jurisdiction. However, the residents of these areas face routine inconvenience due to contaminated water supply and choking of sewerage discharge. 

Though the government notified the policy for compounding of unauthorised colonies and for the regularisation of plots and buildings falling within such colonies, property developers consider it impractical, cumbersome and unrealistic. 

Official speak

We don’t allow anyone to develop a colony by defying rules. We take strict action against the violators. After the notification of the new policy, we have received 178 applications for the legalisation of unauthorised colonies. We will issue certificates after collecting the compounding fee. However, if a colony is illegal, it is illegal. The realtors’ political affiliation doesn't change the tag. — Deepti Uppal, Administrator, Amritsar Development Authority


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