Why illegal layouts thrive

Why illegal layouts thrive

BBMP is talking about a demolition drive. Will property owners pay for the crimes of builders and municipal officials?

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is winding up the first leg of its survey to identify buildings constructed in violation of sanctioned plans and by-laws.

It is talking of an impending demolition drive against illegal structures.

Senior officials in the BBMP town planning department say illegal layouts could not have come up without the connivance and support of politicians and civic officials.

“Bengaluru is a looter’s paradise. Nothing here moves without hands being greased,” says a former bureaucrat who has held many high government positions.

The BBMP began making a list only after the High Court pulled it up for mushrooming illegal constructions in the city.

The BBMP is the authority to sanction and monitor the execution of building plans.

About 8,300 building plans have been approved in the last 15 months across the city’s eight zones, according to an official source.

Village pockets on the outskirts of the city are now hubs of construction activity, and layouts that follow no town planning rules are mushrooming there.

“Some developers get permission from the district authorities for conversion of agricultural land to residential, but no layout is legal until it gets approval from the town planning department,” warns the official.

Town planning is usually done in anticipation of how the neighbourhood will grow in the next 30 years.

But municipal officials just don’t care as they are hand in glove with unscrupulous builders and politicians.

“Everybody wants to make a fast buck while they are in power by ignoring basic approvals. But once the illegal structures come up, regularising them proves costly for property owners as they have to pay lakhs as betterment charges and penalties. This again goes into the government’s coffers. Why should citizens pay penalties if their structures were allowed to come up with due approvals?” he says.

He also points out that the old areas in the city, such as Malleswaram, Basavanagudi and Jayanagar, have wide roads while the newer ones show no evidence of any foresight in planning.

“Even today, the revenue department uses chains to measure the land when handheld GPS coordinated instruments and satellite mapping systems are available and can give accurate readings. They use chains because only then can they manipulate the measurement,” adds the official.

Expert speak

V Ravichandar, urbanist and former member of the BBMP restructuring committee, says the law should go after perpetrators of fraud, and not innocent property owners.

The Akrama-Sakrama scheme, proposed to regularise illegal properties and pending in the Supreme Court since 2017, intends to regularise illegal realty projects developed before October 2013, he notes.

“The scheme was looking at two issues at one go — illegal constructions with no setback, and illegal layouts. When it comes to illegal layouts, a lot of people have put their life savings into them. So we should look at it in a humane way and not in a brutal way.  Blind demolition drive is no answer,” he says.

The rich and influential get away and their properties are not demolished or meddled with, he observes.

Home buyers’ plight

A former bureaucrat says new layouts follow no norms: they violate all rules relating to road width, drainage, and road connectivity. Developers and municipal officials who let illegal structures come up escape all responsibility. People who unwittingly buy property from such developers are at the receiving end as they live under threat of demolition.

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