State culpability in unauthorised constructions
By Nitin Saxena
By 2015, half of Delhi'spopulation is likely to be in slums. Water unfit for human consumption, congested roads and unplanned expansion of colonies are degrading the nation'scapital. Unplanned expansion of the city and the neighbouring towns has resulted in heavy concentration of people in certain parts whereas the surrounding areas are totally neglected. This could have been avoided if proper steps were taken by government while sanctioning building with approved maps.
Even 58 years after Independence, Delhiites do not have fully developed district centres and amenities like cinemas, hotels, nursing homes, dispensaries, commercial offices, guest houses, libraries, bus terminals, telephone exchanges and fire stations. The Delhi Development Authority'smaster plan to decentralise the capital has chalked out 29 district centres for Delhi. All the plans of DDA/MCD will be of no use unless the Delhi Government is firm in executing the existing provisions of law to check the illegal structures.
There is a strong nexus between the politicians, police, builders and bureaucrats in Delhi. Crore of rupees are changing hands and law enforcement authorities are not interested in exposing the nexus. Chinappa Reddy, a retired judge of the Supreme Court who conducted a probe into the conduct of DDA officials in the famous Skipper'scase has found prima facie cases against nine top officials of DDA. There is no need to discuss the prevailing corruption at lower levels of bureaucracy. If any spirited individual takes the genuine problem regarding illegal construction to the notice of the authorities concerned, the stock reply given by them is that due to inadequate staff they cannot take any action. What prevents DDA/MCD from taking action? What prevents DDA/MCD from recruiting more staff?
Everybody knows that illegal construction goes on with the MCD officials in the ?know of things.? In most of the DDA colonies? residents have extended the DDA flats and also constructed additional floor on terrace. It can be seen at Sheikh Sarai II, Siddharth Extn., Kalkaji, Paschim Vihar, Double storey flats Lajpat Nagar, Vasant Kunj and also in government allotted flats at Lodhi Colony which is prohibited as per the government rules. In Sainik Farm, people are allegedly converting agricultural land into housing sites. Once an illegal colony has come up on public land it becomes impossible for anyone to remove it. All claims made by the politicians regarding the demolition of illegal construction is an eye-wash to the common men. Section 343(I) of Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1957 says that buildings constructed without building permit are unauthorised and illegal and can be pulled down. Section 344 speaks of stoppage of building work in certain cases and section 345-A empowers the agency to seal the unauthorised construction. But the MCD books most of the cases under Section 343 and 344 instead of Section 345-A.
Even 58 years after Independence, Delhiites do not have fully developed district centres and amenities like cinemas, hotels, nursing homes, dispensaries, commercial offices, guest houses, libraries, bus terminals, telephone exchanges and fire stations.
Again Section 347 of the Act says that no person can change the use of any land or building or park thereof to other than that sanctioned or permissible. And the offence may result in simple imprisonment that may extend to six months or a fine of Rs 5,000 or both. But the fact remains that the MCD has done little to prevent such constructions and has adopted an encroacher-friendly move by issuing notices and that too only when there is a court directive. In 2001, it had issued 2758 notices for flouting building by-laws. Only 972 constructions were demolished and 215 properties were sealed. The MCD staff can demolish any construction going on without approval and there is no need of serving notice. But after the construction is over, notices are to be served.
Illegal constructions may broadly be divided into two categories: (a) Constructing a multi-storey building on a government land or a land of the Gram Sabha by the coloniser and in turn selling the same to the genuine investor and (b) modifying or extending the DDA flats allotted to them thereby causing inconvenience to the co-owners. In the first category, the government land was occupied and converted into buildings by the interested parties thereby making huge money as has happened in Skipper'scase. In the other category, the unplanned conversion brings an additional load on the load bearing capacity of the building thereby making the entire structure weak. Recently Delhi High Court disabled the MCD to do away with only 18,271 illegal constructions in the city and submit a status report. The Delhi High court also asked the MCD to do away with all commercial activity in farm-houses not conforming to the road width specification as decided in the policy. MCD was forced to start sealing farm houses where weddings were organised in violation of rules. The property owners in Delhi say either the unauthorised construction in all properties should be razed or none should be harassed.
Delhi is faced with a perpetual shortage of both commercial and residential buildings. Demolition of illegal constructions cause social and environmental problems. The Delhi Government is changing the building by-laws. The MCD says the new norms will reduce unauthorised construction by fixing responsibility on the property owners and architects. But going by the experience of Greater Noida, it appears that it is another step by MCD to evade responsibility. New by-laws empower the architect to grant completion certificate after inspecting a structure. If the MCD engineers find deviation from the approved plan, the architect will be liable to lose his empanelment. In Greater Noida, this law is total failure because thousands of completion certificates are still pending for clearance. As per the reports received, more than 50 per cent of Greater Noida buildings don'thave proper completion certificates. In Gurgaon also the problem is almost the same, many residential and commercial buildings don'thave completion certificate.
The MCD has done little to prevent illegal constructions and has adopted an encroacher-friendly move by issuing notices and that too only when there is a court directive.
In Gurgaon, property owners say to take the completion certificate from the HUDA is a difficult task because without greasing the palm of junior engineer it is not possible to take completion certificate.
Vinay Chabra, a West Patel Nagar builder, whose building was demolished, claims he paid Rs 5 Lakh as bribe to the MCD to keep silent, then they return with bulldozer to demolish that unauthorised construction. It'sa win-win situation for the MCD and Police. MCD had collected Rs 64 crore from the public involved in illegal constructions by assuring them thing would be fine if they pay up. Delhiites after the Malhotra Committee suggested regularising all illegal constructions in plotted colonies, though the recommendations were later trashed by the Urban Development Ministry on the grounds it would tantamount to rewarding the law breakers, no one knows what happened to the money. Without even waiting for the Committee'srecommendations to be finalised cash strapped MCD was only too happy to accept money from people. The MCD had even issued public advertisements and set up special camps to keep the moolah flowing. The Committee had then suggested an increase in floor-area rates which would have led to regularisation of unauthorised constructions. The regularisations were to be done against payment of heavy penalty so people turned up at MCD offices in large numbers to deposit the money. The committee had asked defaulters to make self-assessment of derivations in their homes and submit drawings showing the ?excesses? coverage. People engaged professional architects to preface maps of violations in their flats and submitted them to the MCD alongwith the penalty amount. The V.K. Malhotra Committee submitted its report in June 1999 and recommended a one-time amnesty scheme for illegal constructions. But it has not been accepted so far.
(The writer is a recipient of National Award on consumer Protection and can be contacted at 5/1, Kalkaji New Delhi-19. E-mail [email protected])