Since the issue of massive commercial structures termed illegal by the courts hangs by a slender thread in Srinagar, the question of illegal structures in scenic spot Pahalgam holds little promise of being resolved to the satisfaction of legal and environmental concerns, more so in view of their humungous number – 100 at last count. Comprised of huts and hotels, the structures are said to have come up in once-virgin tracts of Mawura and Yannar, five kilometres ahead of Pahalgam, in violation of a ban on construction placed by the state High Court. Without doubt, the wanton spree of building has had political backing – the list of the structures and their owners published in this newspaper throwing more than broad hints – in tune with the region’s many progress stories, and underscoring once again the secret of its spectacular riches.
The brazen face of vitiated public life, by now an inalienable part of mass consciousness, has been graphically depicted in the fact that Congress bigwigs had hold one of their recent meetings at a 50-room hotel put up in the area by a top bureaucrat whose services the state’s present dispensation had dispensed with over corruptions charges. Significantly, it was the Pahalgam Development Authority, under whose jurisdiction the two belts may now have been placed, that had prepared a report on the constructions early this year, sealing 28 hotels. Though the PDA apparently has had no role in allowing the illegal structures, its officials insist that No Objection Certificates have been issued by the revenue, power, fisheries, and public health engineering departments “either in lieu of bribes or under political pressure.”
The clutch of illegal structures lines the Liddar river, already a receptacle of sewage from similar developmental activities upstream and an ever-burgeoning religious event, and has, in several cases encroached on its waters. What the report has not mentioned is whether the construction has taken place on one bank or both. For, if it is not the latter, a solution to the problem is not far to seek. Since administrative matters of this nature usually remain pending till voting time, the present lot of rulers can allot the other bank to their protégés. Hardly anyone would complain of the dictates of justice and equality before law(-makers) not having been upheld.