Illegal constructions

Srinagar:  Jammu and Kashmir is all set to have a “temporary” legislation to protect, for at least one year, thousands of unauthorized constructions that have come up in twin capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu besides Katra, a small town in Udhampur district of the state.
In this regard, a Bill—Jammu and Kashmir Civic Laws (Special Provisions) —is being pushed for passage in the current session of the state legislature.
As the state cabinet—comprising majority members in contemporary legislature— has already cleared draft of the Bill, it unlikely that the “temporary and special law” law fails to be a reality.
If enacted, the new law will be known as “Jammu and Kashmir Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2014,” and after coming into force from the date of its publication in the Government Gazette, will cease to exist on March 31 next year.
Just as it aims to guard all the illegal constructions, many of them that have allegedly come up in league with politicians and bureaucrats, the ‘special law’ will not protect under construction or the buildings and structures which had been not completed on date of commencement of the Act.
The provisions of the Act will not also apply on buildings and structures constructed on public land, road or other public utility and also to constructions not complying with respect to safety, if any issued by the government.
On the face of it, the special legislation is planned to ward off any political upheavals during the upcoming Parliament and Assembly polls.
However, the government has ascribed reasons for bringing the special legislation, claiming that issues involving the matter are “many and highly complex.”
“The magnitude of the problem is too huge to be solved by sealing/demolition/forcible action alone,” reads ‘Statement of object and Reason’ section of the proposed Act.
“It is reported that large number of residential/commercial and other buildings/portion(s) of buildings could be unauthorized and in violation of approved Master Plans,” it reads, adding, “On this assumption, the number of families who will be affected by this drive would be very large.”
The Master Plans for Srinagar, Jammu and Katra have been already notified and provides for its review and revision after every five years to account for such modifications and corrections that emerge based on ground realities.
“The first review of Master Plans has already commenced and is expected to lead to the necessary modifications in the existing guidelines for matters such as land use, notifications of new commercial and industrial areas along with ground coverage, floor area ratio changes etc.”
Besides, it reads, the norms, policies, and guidelines may also be needed to be appropriately modified to ensure their smooth implementation.
“The revised Master Plans would cover the whole of the newly notified local areas,” it reads, adding, “A period of at least one year is required to bring in orderly arrangements, keeping in view current ground realities and the fast evolving nature of the urbanization of these areas.”
As completion of the revised Master Plan requires a year, it said, the government has considered expedient to have the law for a period of March 31, 2015.
The new Act, it reads, provide for relief and to minimize “avoidable hardships and irreparable loss to the people of these areas against any punitive action by any agency.”
“The government will constitute a high power committee of experts including eminent bureaucrats, planners, citizens to go into depth of the reasons for the unauthorized constructions, suggesting remedial measures including devising mechanisms for the regulation of building activities in these cities.”
The panel, it said, will also suggest the fundamental principles for regularization of otherwise unauthorized constructions and institutional structure for the process of regularization.
The panel will also be tasked to recommend measures to prevent reoccurrence of such violations in the future including the structure and accountability of the enforcement machinery.
The Committee will be requested to finalize recommendations within six months.
The government has also emphasized that all unauthorized constructions cannot be equated and has categorized it into four sub-sections on seriousness of the violations—constructions on public land, constructions sans sanctioned building plan, conversion of residential land use to commercial, unauthorized commercial construction or misuse and minor unauthorized constructions.