Post floods, people raise commercial structures on residential permits

Moazum Mohammad/Sana Fazili
Srinagar: In the aftermath of last year’s floods, many commercial structures have cropped up in Srinagar in violation of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation’s (SMC) building permissions. The violators have constructed commercial structures on sites where permission was given for residential structures.
For instance, a three-storey commercial building is coming up near National School, Karan Nagar where Mohammad Shafi Shah son of Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Shah was granted a residential building permission. “The permission is purely for residential purposes and (there should be) no change in shape, size and height of the existing building,” read the permission copy no 2134/2015 issued by the SMC on 30 March 2015.
Last week, the police lodged an FIR against the illegal construction. But even on Friday, labourers were seen working on the third floor of the building. The violator has “disguised” the construction work by keeping the facade of the old structure intact and erecting a few tin sheets and a green net to hide the violation.
SMC Chief Enforcement Officer Manzoor Ahmad Turray admitted the violation has taken place: “We have registered an FIR in the case because the owner has violated the permission”.
After the floods, which damaged scores of residential houses apart from other properties, the government ordered special permission to be granted to flood-hit people whose houses were damaged. The affected persons had to produce an FIR copy, affidavit, a building plan, self-attested photographs and photos of the damaged structure.
In another case, Farooq Ahmad Teli son of Ghulam Nabi Teli, in a “deceitful” way managed to get residential permission on a non-existent structure. After being granted permission, he started constructing a house and shop but the court cancelled the building permission (order no 1670, 2015) after the SMC filed a report citing that Teli obtained the building permission through “deceitful means and by suppressing material facts”.
The court recently struck down the permission, giving the SMC “liberty to dismantle the establishment”. But no action has been initiated yet.
According to Turray, a whopping 40% of people ‘deceived authorities’ in the garb of such flood permissions. “These people exploited the situation and got permissions,” he said. According to him, the SMC has received complaints from Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar and Chattabal, apart from other places where residential permissions have been used for commercial activity. “In Karan Nagar, 5-10 people have switched residential permission to a commercial one, and complaints continue to pour in from other areas,” he added.
On his part, minister of housing and urban development Mohammad Ashraf Mir admitted that violations have taken place. “There can be no denial. Flood permissions have been changed and violators have constructed commercial structures. But we have acted against them and are continuing a demolition drive,” Mir told Kashmir Reader. He said the government would not “accept the violations” and “action would be initiated against the illegal structures”.