20 officials charged over drain encroachment

20 officials charged over drain encroachment

Illegal construction on stormwater drains had led to flooding followed by an infamous demolition drive two years ago

In a crackdown, the state government has framed charges against 20 officials for allowing illegal construction of buildings on stormwater drains, or rajakaluves, in the city that led to flooding followed by an infamous demolition drive two years ago.  

The officers have been accused of permitting constructions — mainly residential complexes — that led to encroachment of drains in parts of Bommanahalli, Hosur Road, Sarjapur Road and Bilekahalli. The properties include the Tirumala Splendour apartment complex on Hosur Road and the posh Shubh Enclave on Sarjapur Road.

The 2016 flooding was one of Bengaluru’s worst, which led to civic authorities launching a demolition drive in which at least 141 houses encroaching 29 acres of drains were demolished. Scores of families living in their homes for years were rendered roofless overnight.

The officials approved building plans in violation of buffer zone and, in some cases, by neglecting the presence of a stormwater drain, according to the charge sheets and show-cause notices issued by the Urban Development Department (UDD). DH has copies of the charge sheets and notices.

Of the 20 officials, eight have retired and two are under suspension, leaving 10 others still in service.

The charge sheets, prepared on August 25, 2018, claim to have documentary proof and witnesses incriminating the officials, who stand to face a departmental inquiry under the Karnataka Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1966. This could be followed by a civil suit if they are found guilty.

The officials — they belong to the BBMP, BDA, Town & Country Planning and the Public Works department — were first held accountable, prima facie, in August 2016. Criminal proceedings were initiated against them, which was halted by the high court.

“They got relief on criminal proceedings from the court, but we can go ahead with administrative disciplinary proceedings. There are clear procedural lapses on their part that are directly attributed to the encroachment of stormwater drains,” Additional Chief Secretary (urban development) Mahendra Jain said. “We want to fix accountability so that it becomes a lesson for others.” 

The UDD discovered that the BMTF has filed B reports against the officials, land owners and builders in connection with the 2016 flooding and encroachment of drains.

“If this is the fate of a complaint filed by the BBMP commissioner based on the government’s direction, what happens to complaints filed by citizens? What about those who lost their property during encroachment removal? Aren’t officials and builders responsible,” the UDD asked in a letter to the Home department.

The UDD has recommended legal action against BMTF officials and that the sub-inspectors posted there for several years be transferred.