Site allotment scam just a tip of iceberg: BDA chairman

Site allotment scam just a tip of iceberg: BDA chairman S R Vishwanath

Interview

Caught in a web of crises and multiple scams, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has faltered in its mission to plan and regulate the growth of Bengaluru.

Yelahanka MLA S R Vishwanath, who was recently appointed the BDA chairman, spoke to DH about the crises and scams surrounding the agency and government plans to make the system work for the benefit of the people. 

Have you been able to understand the issues dogging the BDA after taking over the reins last month? What are the plans to clean up the mess? 

The ongoing saga over the Hosakerehalli slum site allotment scam is only the tip of the iceberg. I have already directed the (BDA) commissioner to cancel two more such projects worth Rs 400 crore. In fact, there are scams worth thousands of crores. We are approaching the chief minister next week seeking an investigation by the SIT. A real clean-up of the BDA will take over five years. We are focussing on making things work by sorting out urgent issues.

The Revised Master Plan 2031 has been stuck in the pipeline for the past three years. There is criticism that the BDA is focused only on building flyovers. 

The old RMP was riddled with errors due to vested interests and also lacked a plan for the city’s future. We will come up with a new draft in the next five months. A meeting in this regard will be called next week. We have entrusted the work to the same agency to avoid any delay.

Will the BDA go ahead with the Peripheral Ring Road despite the funds' crunch? The delayed land acquisition has left hundreds of farmers in the lurch. 

We need more than Rs 18,000 crore for the project. It is true that farmers have been suffering and we want to put an end to it. After the government approved the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, some people have expressed interest in investing in the project. We are also seeking approval for loans. The PRR will boost growth, provide jobs, and help decongest traffic in the city. 

Will the Arkavathy Layout site allottees and landowners get justice after 16 years? 

Arkavathy Layout is one of the worst projects of the BDA. The failure to keep the promise of giving 40% of the land to original owners is the root of the problem. Angry farmers are stalling all development work. On the other hand, cases have been filed in courts over around 300 acres of land. The only way to resolve the issue is to negotiate with the landowners and come to an amicable solution. The BDA board has approved the acquisition of 450 acres of land next to the layout. This will be used for the distribution of sites to people who have not yet received them despite the allotment. 

Denotification has also dogged Dr Shivaram Karanth Layout. 

The Supreme Court has already formed a three-member committee to get details of the legally constructed buildings. We will take necessary action based on the report. 

What are the BDA’s plans to overcome the financial crisis which has been worsened by the pandemic? 

Firstly, the regularisation of more than 95,000 illegal properties in BDA limits under section 38D of the BDA Act will help us get 25% of the guidance value. We have hired a company to measure such houses. 

Secondly, we plan to strengthen our legal cell because our court cases are not being handled properly. The possession of BDA property worth Rs 2,000 crore is pending due to delays in legal matters. 

Thirdly, we are going to take a hard look at the common amenities (CA) sites. Some private layouts are yet to hand over CA sites to the BDA. Meanwhile, various societies and agencies which have been utilising our CA sites since 1985 have defaulted on payments. 

Lastly, we are planning to redevelop the 12 commercial properties, like the shopping complexes, under the PPP model.