Illegal construction menace has to be tackled; new guidelines but administration lags behind a lot
For the residents of Jammu city, the menace of illegal construction is not a new burning controversy. Illegal construction of structures for commercial purpose has been taking place for a couple of years and even prevalent today. These illegal constructions are a farce on the much-hyped Jammu Master Plan which anyway fails to properly address the needs of the inhabitants of the city. Over time and time again, the planning department has faced harsh criticism on grounds of mediocrity and incompetence to perform. Moreover, the municipality has failed repeatedly to curb the menace of the illegal constructions that are mushrooming in many parts of the city which are indicative of the corruption that prevails in the department.
State Cabinet, which met under the chairpersonship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on 28th April 2017 approved policy on illegal structures in twin capital cities and holy town of Katra. In the policy, a ceiling has been fixed for regularization of such structures after imposing a hefty penalty on the violators while as major violations of land use and building bye-laws will face demolition.
The Cabinet discussed and approved the proposal of the Housing and Urban Development Department regarding amendment in the J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act in order to bring all those illegal structures which have come up till December 31, 2016, under its purview instead of previous ceiling of March 31, 2014, reported daily excelsior. It added that only two months time from the date of issuance of notification will be given to the owners of illegal structures to avail the benefit of the policy and the whole process will be completed within a period of one year. Cabinet also approved the policy on illegal structures, which will be made applicable to the issuance of notification by the Housing and Urban Development Department following promulgation of Ordinance by the Governor.
Reportedly, some structures like industrial units in residential areas and encroachments of road and lanes beside areas falling under the purview of Heritage Conservation Act and Wildlife Act have been kept out of the purview of the policy and will be demolished at any cost.
Structures which have been raised as per the building bye-laws but formal permission has not been obtained from the concerned authorities, such structures will be regularized after obtaining building permission fee as well as a penalty, which would be four times of the building permission fee.
About violations of building bye-laws, only 50% of such violations will be regularized after obtaining penalty from the violators and by enforcing rectification wherever feasible. Violations beyond 50% will be demolished through the Enforcement Wing of respective agencies.
Only 25% of the land use violations will be regularized after charging hefty penalty from the violators while as remaining violations will be demolished. The Housing and Urban Development Department has worked out penalty by keeping different aspects in mind so as to ensure that policy generates huge revenue while affecting regularization of structures.
While the government seems to have sprung into action, it will be important how effectively the laws are exercised and will they be able to make a visible difference in the city that desperately needs planning and new infrastructure.