An ordinance when an elected House is around maybe good for politics but bad for democracies. Reports claim that a whopping 8 lakh out of 12 lakh properties in Bangalore are in violation of building bylaws and hence this regularisation is desirable.
Needless to add, the sub text is that ‘akrama-sakrama’ will help the party in power to win the much needed votes. One hopes the citizenry realises that an election promise of implementing the Kasturirangan committee report during the Assembly elections has been well and truly buried. And there are estimates of over Rs 10,000 crore in regularisation fees that will spur the much needed development. No one seems concerned at the appalling lack of capabilities of our government agencies to be able to choose the right kind of projects or implement them within time and budget with high standards.
Regularisation schemes finally end up like voluntary disclosure and amnesty schemes. Further, it discriminates against the law abiding citizen in favour of the violator. One other drawback — it does not have us address the root malaise, which is the archaic rules that govern our ‘town, country and building plans’ aided and abetted by the inspectors.
At the mercy of officials
Further, there are considerable discretionary powers in interpretation — the limit of up to 50 per cent violation reminds one of the current controversies between ‘Five Point Someone’ and ‘3Idiots’ claiming between 70 per cent rip off vis-à-vis five per cent adaptation from book to movie. Maybe we could have the book and celluloid gladiators appointed as our ‘akrama-sakrama’ ombudsman!
There is a way out and the bubonic plague in England centuries ago offers us an exit route to fix this mess built up over decades. The civic authorities marked houses with a plague victim with a big ‘X’ on the door leading to the term ‘to be avoided like the plague’.
Folks in the neighbourhood took care to avoid the house till the plague threat was removed after which the X sign came off. Similarly, let us indicate ‘houses under a cloud’ for those houses which are under violation of the kind that ‘akrama-sakrama’ envisages. This can be a self-assessment exercise and let this be recorded in BBMP, BDA records, in stamps and registration offices and online. And specify how the citizen can remove the ‘stigma’ associated with the property. The day the regularisation is complied with, the property is no longer under a cloud. Else the property owner pays an annual ‘akrama-sakrama’ cess in perpetuity.
It is suggested that very minor violations that do not have any impact on the neighbourhood be waived off at the outset. On an annual basis the civic authorities could levy a cess that could be around 7-10 per cent of the onetime regularisation fee amount currently being advocated. The way to get out of paying this cess and removing the ‘stigma’ is to correct the irregularity. If that cannot be done, the cess stays. Under such a scheme the city body will get between Rs 700-1000 crore per year for development projects.
Hence, the new scheme will have an effect on the properties ‘under a cloud’. They can be expected to be lower than those not under a cloud in the same neighbourhood. Over time citizens would realise that it is better to be within the ambit of law since it is not economically beneficial to violate them.
Needless to stress, we need more relevant building laws in place of the archaic ones. An annual cess of this nature rewards law abiding behaviour.
Even if the state goes ahead with its ill-conceived ‘akrama-sakrama’ scheme, let the regularisation money go into an escrow account with the stipulation that at least 50 per cent of the monies are spent in improving the same neighbourhood where the violation money was collected. That would be some limited justice to the neighbourhood that has to live with the violations.
(The writer is chairman, Feedback Consulting)