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Civic Babus in Hyderabad Bend Laws, Float Amnesty Schemes to Give Legal Tag to Illegal Buildings

Building regularization schemes, which allow illegal structures to get legal tag for a penalty , triggers a spurt in such constructions. The latest being the scheme on November 2015.

Illegal houses are mushrooming in Hyderabad metropolitan region with tacit support from successive governments, say observers. From bending government laws to turning a blind eye to violations ­ albeit for a hefty `fee’ ­ the local administration has done it all to encourage unlawful structures to dot the city. Such is the magnitude of the menace that Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has lost count of the exact number of illegal constructions. Worse, the department responsible for cracking down on offenders, collects property tax from unauthorised structures. There’s only one criteria -owners have to cough up 200% of actual tax and sign an undertaking that tax payment does not give right on legality of the building.

Also, building regularisation schemes, which allow illegal structures to get legal tag for a penalty , triggers a spurt in such constructions. The latest being the scheme on November 2015.

This practice, civil society activists say , has given tremendous confidence to builders for “getting away with murder“. “The series of regularisation schemes floated by GHMC from time to time has resulted in several illegal structures sprouting in public parks, lake beds and government land. In other words, state government is encouraging illegal structures by giving them the opportunity to regularize with these scheme,“ said M Padmanabha Reddy , secretary, Forum for Good Governance, who filed a PIL against regularisation schemes a few months ago.

Later, the high court stayed regularisation schemes and directed GHMC not to process applications received under the 2015 scheme. The final verdict in the matter is pending.

There is also the problem of deviating from the rule book, many a times consciously. This is apparent during the construction of government buildings, say analysts. “Buildings such as Aranya Bhavan, Hyderabad Police Commissionerate and new building blocks in DGP’s office were constructed without civic permission. It sends out wrong signals to the common man,“ said Syed Aminul Hasan Jafri, MLC and former journalist.

The town planning wing of GHMC, though aware of illegalities, cites staff crunch to pass the buck. Officials say there are 400 vacancies within the wing, especially for town planning supervisors and overseers. These are field staff who inspect buildings. “ As a result, even if one or two buildings are identified by lower-rung staff, the issue is not escalated to higher officials for taking action. Junior employees are hand in glove with builders and local politicians, including corporators, and hush up the matter. Of course they get a cut for allowing these deviations,“ said a GHMC official on condition of anonymity .

TIMES VIEW:

GHMC babus make a fast buck by allowing illegal constructions, but it’s the common man which pays a heavy price for their greed. When these buildings come crashing, lives are lost, but babus remain immune. Now, there’s an urgent need for a clean-up of the corrupt civic body and not just razing down illegal structures. The rot runs deep in the system and only drastic situations call for drastic measures.

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