Shimla: The violators in Himachal Pradesh have a field day as the Congress government has finally started taking populist measures in the fourth year of rule. After much flip flop over last two years, the state cabinet finally gave nod to promulgate the ordinance for one time regularisation of over 30,000 unauthorised structures in Himachal Pradesh on ‘as is where it is’ basis by amending the Town and Country Planning Act, 1977.
As per the decision, which facilitates regularisation of deviations upto 70 per cent, the buildings constructed on encroached municipal or government land shall not qualify for regularisation nor the structures raised in green areas. The compounding rate, which has been purposely kept on the lower side to help everyone get the benefit, as per the government, would, however, be double for commercial unauthorised structures.The ordinance would now be promulgated any day and the government would be flooded with applications within the deadline of 45 days.
Not surprisingly, while the cabinet decision is welcomed by Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) led by Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, whose team earlier took it up with the government to regularise the unauthorised constructions as a ‘one-time-measure’, the opposition BJP is silent. Rather, the BJP, which is vocal on many such fronts where the government benefits go to violators, is silently supporting it. This ‘one-time’ regularisation is a repeated pretext that the successive governments have been taking with an eye on vote banks towards the end of tenure.
Or to benefit the influential people, who go ahead with big unauthorised buildings, probably thinking rightly that they would manage to get away with it. But the decision is definitely not in the interest of hill state, which is already witness to so much unauthorised haphazard construction, especially in hill towns like Shimla, which are ecologically fragile and have a high probability of an earthquake. A study done few years ago has categorically mentioned that majority buildings in Shimla are unsafe as they are constructed on loose hill strata, to which the Shimla Municipal Corporation too has been a mute spectator. More so, such a stance by the government only encourages people to go for more violations, caring a fig for safety and environment concerns.
In fact, this time, the Congress government can be blamed for encouraging more and more people come up with unauthorised structures over the last two years because of its indecision. The government promulgated an ordinance in early 2014 and then brought a Bill for one time regularisation of the unauthorised structures, only to withdraw the Bill later. Towards the end of 2014, it brought another ordinance again to be withdrawn in the midst of much criticism in public. When the issue was brought to the notice of the Chief Minister that so many people were going in for fresh unauthorised construction in the midst of this confusion, the Chief Minister strictly said that no such building would be regularized.
However, the ‘as is where it is’ basis adopted now is against that spirit and would consider all such buildings which came up unauthorized over the last two years. “It was like giving a deliberate opportunity to people to go for unauthorised structures,” said some experts. The cabinet decision has though made the violators happy, it is yet to be seen whether the government can actually benefit them. A move by the then BJP government in 2002 (towards end of tenure) to regularise encroachments in the entire state was finally turned down by the Himachal High Court.
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