Converting Bengaluru's Akrama into Sakrama

Converting Bengaluru's Akrama into Sakrama

Converting Bengaluru's Akrama into Sakrama

Bengaluru, a city fabled for its unplanned growth, will soon see the rollout of a scheme to regularise unauthorised development and constructions. Christened Akrama-Sakrama, the scheme is being sold as a boon for property owners and a one-time golden opportunity for them to come clean.

The scheme has pitted some civil society organisations, NGOs and activists against the government as they feel such regularisation is unfair to those who have built homes within the framework of the law. Though many people have been airing such views, there are some who feel the government must be magnanimous.

“In their quest to have a roof above their head, people end up buying homes wherever it is affordable. The cheaper options are usually those which have flouted the rules,” says B P Mallikarjuniah, a former ITI employee. Though he does not have to worry about Akrama-Sakrama, as his residence in Mallathahalli is free of violations, Mallikarjuniah is not miffed with the government’s plan to regularise illegal properties. “It’s difficult for the poor and the middle class to own a house in a city like Bengaluru. There is no point in demolishing their homes now. It’s better to levy a fee and regularise properties,” he says.

Years ago, Mahadevappa, a retired government employee, collated his life’s savings to buy a home in Malleshwaram. But his property now needs to be regularised. “The violations were made by the builder from whom we bought the house. I have to now pay a fee and get it regularised,” he says. Mahadevappa feels the scheme will help people, but the government, he says, needs to show urgency as the matter has dragged on for too long. “This has been going on for so long. More and more buildings are coming up in Bengaluru. It’s best if the government notifies the scheme at the earliest,” he says.

But the fee may be too steep for some. “The government has put everyone on the same scale. How can the poor, the middle class and the rich be expected to pay the same percentage of penalty,” questions Y B Krishnendra, former president of the Someshwarapura Layout Residents Welfare Association.

The government should, according to Krishnendra, reduce the fee for those from low-income backgrounds or else they may stay away from the whole process. “The fine in some cases runs into several lakhs, an amount some people may not be able to afford,” he says.

And the ceiling for violation is baffling for some. “The maximum violation that can be regularised is 50%. What about the ‘pete’ areas? What does the government plan to do there? The violations there are way beyond the permissible limits,” says Srinivasamurthy, a civil engineer and a Class-I contractor.

Pointing to the future, Srinivasamurthy says the government should not allow violations or else the whole circus will be played out again and again. “If the government is really serious, the present Akrama-Sakrama should be combined with a strict enforcement of building by-laws for future constructions. But so far I havent seen them take such measures. There are upcoming properties which continue to flout rules,” he says.

A simpler way out could be by collecting betterment charges, feels Karthikeyan, a Beml employee and resident of Kaggadasapura. “Fix a nominal fee as betterment charge and legalise properties. This will help the poor and may also push owners with large violations to come forward.”

Trilok Chandra, a businessman who owns a shop on Kilari Road, is not convinced with the government’s October 19, 2013, deadline. “Why only till 2013? What about buildings that have been constructed later? Will there be another round of Akrama-Sakrama?” he asks.

Regularising the irregular was never an easy task. While accommodating everyone’s views may not be possible, the government should at the least remind itself that this is meant for the needy, and not a way out for big realtors to clean their slate.