Palike in a fix over zoning violations

Palike in a fix over zoning violations

Palike in a fix over zoning violations
The order of the High Court of Karnataka banning commercial buildings in “residential main area” is flagrantly violated along the 10th Main Water Tank Road and surrounding areas in Indiranagar.

Several commercial buildings dot this road, classified as “residential main zone” in the comprehensive development plan of the Bangalore Development Authority.

The ward engineers of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), in reply to RTI queries by residents, admit that these buildings not only violate zoning regulations, but also lack trade licences. Yet, these buildings are intact and do brisk business.

“Imagine a situation where 60-70 people are in an office adjacent to a residential building. Opening the windows of our house would mean that we are constantly under the gaze of these strangers. Our privacy has gone for a toss,” says Praveen S, a member of Indiranagar Second Stage Residents’

Welfare Association. Pubs and spas, he says, have added more to the nuisance. “God knows what all happens inside these spas and pubs,” he adds. Indiranagar, Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Malleswaram, Rajajinagar, Banashankari, BTM Layout, Koramangala, HSR Layout and Padmanabhanagar are among the areas which have become commercial hubs, thanks to BBMP’s apathy.

BBMP reluctant

About six months ago, the BBMP had issued advertisements in newspapers warning property owners to shut down commercial buildings if they are located in the residential areas where the width of the roads is below 40 feet. However, the caution seems to have had no effect anywhere in the city, while the BBMP appears to be contented with its “action.”

Many corporators too are unwilling to shut down commercial buildings in the residential areas. Meanwhile, the citizens’ cry for action against commercial buildings in their residential areas has grown  louder.

On January 21, BBMP council decided to constitute a committee, which would send a proposal for amending the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act to allow commercial buildings in residential areas. But, there has been no word on the committee till this date.

“The proposed committee will submit a proposal in the BBMP council to amend the KMC Act and let the existing commercial buildings to operate. Once approved in the council, the proposal will be sent to the state government for further action,” said BBMPs taxation and finance committee chairman M K Gunashekar.

A corporator said many people whose livelihood depend on commercial buildings will be thrown to the streets if such a ban is imposed. Requesting anonymity, a corporator sought to know, “Where will the owners of buildings and shopkeepers  go? We have to think on those lines too.”
Protest by RWAs

Palike’s advertisement and limited action was the fallout of  numerous petitions by the residents’ groups demanding crackdown against the commercial buildings in their residential localities. These groups had earlier moved the Karnataka High Court against the errant commercial buildings and got an order in their favour.

While hearing the case, the court had ordered on November 8, 2012: “If plans have been sanctioned after passing the order dated January 25, 2012, prima facie action may call for initiation of contempt of court proceedings. Even if permissions have been granted, we see no reason or justification for the BBMP not to take steps for recalling the permissions granted by them.”

Yet the Palike has come out with an excuse. BBMP joint commissioner Sarfaraz Khan said: “We will discourage commercial activities in residential areas by denying renewal of trade licences of such commercial establishments.” He said that the repercussions would be serious if such commercial buildings are closed abruptly.

 “I can show you with proof that 95% of commercial establishments in Indiranagar do not have trade licences. In fact, 99% of shops in the city do not have trade licences. Palike is reluctant to act against the erring commercial buildings,” said Sneha Nandihal of BRACE. She felt that political pressure was preventing action against errant commercial buildings.

Residents up in arms

“After we learnt that Palike council intended to form a committee, we gave a representation to Mayor G Padmavathi and her deputy. We told her that the formation of such a committee would amount to contempt of court. Probably, Palike has dropped the plan,” said G R Balaji, secretary of Jayanagar First Block Organisation of Residents for Clean Environment (FORCE).

Balaji said the formation of the committee itself would be against the comprehensive development plan, KMC Act, high court order and the subsequent gazette notification by the Karnataka government ordering a blanket ban on commercial establishments in the ‘residential main’ area.

People living in Indira Nagar, Malleswaram, JP Nagar, Koramangala, HSR Layout and other residential areas have held several protests in the recent past against rampant commercialisation of residential areas. They have started identifying commercial buildings in these localities and are flooding the BBMP with complaints.