Jammu: The Legislative Council on Wednesday passed the bill for allowing illegal structures in Srinagar and Jammu cities and Katra town to operate for a year, amidst strong opposition and calls for amendments in the bill.
As soon as the bill was brought in the House for discussion, many legislators, including some from ruling National Conference and its coalition partner Congress, advocated amendments in the time frame of the bill while main opposition PDP opposed its passing.
According to the bill (LA Bill no. 5 of 2014), all notices issued by any local authority for initiating action against unauthorized constructions or Master Plan violations in the areas of Jammu, Srinagar and Katra would be deemed suspended until March 31, 2015 or until the government formulates a policy in this regard.
“The passing of this bill will be the ultimate disgrace and dishonor of this august House. We will not allow anyone to mislead this House for some vested interests. We strongly oppose this bill and want that it should be send back to lower house,” PDP’s Naeem Akhtar Andrabi said while speaking on the discussion over the bill.
NC’s Khalid Najeeb Suharwardy said it would become a wrong precedence for law violators to get one time amnesty. “Every time there should not be amnesty so that the violators would take the things lightly under the grab of amnesty and the violators will think they have legal license to go ahead. We need to take some strong decisions. This bill is not a good thing,” he said.
However, another NC MLC, Davendra Singh Rana stood in the favour of the bill and said the Master Plans for three places were “totally flawed”.
“In the absence of the zonal plans which are necessary for Master Plans, one can’t say whether the constructions have come legally or illegally. The Master Plans are totally flawed. This is a very good bill and it should be passed,” Rana said.
He said that in the two-decade conflict in the state many things had happened which shouldn’t have happened, and “everyone could not be taken to task for lesser crimes like Master Plan violation.”
Congress MLC, Ghulam Nabi Monga opposed the bill and accused the state government of framing it for powerful people only. “It is astonishing that government is bringing such kind of bills in the House. This bill is meant for those people who are very close to the corridors of power and who have stakes in such illegal constructions. I would suggest government to lower the time frame from one year to three months,” Monga said.
In response to the arguments and reservations and amendments, Minister for Urban Development and Urban Local Bodies, Nawang Rigzin Jora assured the members that the bill was “class-neutral” and the government realized to bring it given huge urbanization in the state.
Jora said that to frame revised Master Plans for the areas in three months, as suggested by some members, would not be possible. He said that in the past two decades the state had witnessed 98 per cent growth in urbanization and there was an urgent need to formulate a Master Plan to identify identifies new commercials areas in the cities.
The bill, however, was passed after Jora convinced the opposing legislators that it was not anti-poor or pro-rich.
During the passing of the bill, five legislators—PDP’s Mohammad Ashraf Mir and Naeem Akhtar; National Panthers Party’s Rafiq Ahmad Shah; Congress’s G N Monga and Ravendra Sharma—voted against the bill.
Later, PDP members walked out of the House when the bill was passed by voice vote.