BBMP, shut down these illegal shops

BBMP, shut down these illegal shops

Residents protesting against up coming brewery, residents says which is violated many norms at 100ft road Indiranagar in Bengaluru on Saturday. Photo by S K Dinesh

The BBMP’s failure to implement court orders to shut down commercial establishments in Indiranagar’s residential areas must be strongly condemned. Not only does this amount to brazen disrespect of the judiciary but also, it lays bare the low priority that the civic body accords to residents’ concerns. Indiranagar’s residents and residents’ welfare groups have been battling for several years to get commercial establishments in the residential areas to shut down. Such establishments are banned under the Revised Master Plan 2015, which forbids commercial activities in any of the three rings of the Bengaluru Metropolitan Area in ‘Residential Main’ and ‘Residential Mixed Zones’ if the road width is less than or equal to 40 feet. Despite the law clearly forbidding commercial activity in residential areas, neighbourhoods like Indiranagar, Jayanagar, Malleswaram and Koramangala abound in restaurants, pubs, shops and start-ups, which cause much inconvenience and nuisance to residents. With shops and restaurants coming up in basements, there is a dearth of parking space. This has worsened traffic jams. Added to this are noise pollution and regular law and order issues. This forced residents’ welfare groups to demand the closure of these illegal commercial establishments. Although the BBMP identified and even issued notices to some 3,658 commercial establishments in Indiranagar in late 2016, the process ran aground soon after. With corporators raising the issues of loss of revenue and employment, the BBMP developed cold feet and decided to set up a committee to look into the matter. Since then, it has not moved forward on the matter, even ignoring Karnataka High Court orders to shut down the illegal establishments.

To date, only 239 illegal commercial establishments in Indiranagar have closed down, a mere 6.5% of all such establishments identified in this neighbourhood. The BBMP has the power not only to shut down such illegal establishments but also to institute criminal proceedings against those violating the law. So, why is the civic body reluctant to shut down such establishments? Are corrupt BBMP officials and policemen to blame for this? It is well known that corrupt officials make a lot of money by collecting ‘hafta’ from shops and commercial enterprises. Since larger amounts can be collected from illegal establishments, are officials allowing these enterprises to run?

The BBMP could well find itself in contempt of court. Indiranagar residents’ groups are considering going to court again on the matter and have given the BBMP a month to get its act together. Will the BBMP act at least now? Or is it so shameless that it prefers to brazen it out yet again? It must know that other residents’ associations are watching and could draw inspiration from Indiranagar residents’ activism.

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