Stating that no final report on master plan violations in Srinagar has been submitted to state government, Satish Nehru, Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) on Sunday said that the high level committee that was constituted four years ago by the government had in turn constituted a sub committee comprising of junior officials who gave their tentative findings but never came up with a final report.
Talking to Kashmir News Service, Nehru said: “The high level committee led by the then additional commissioner Kashmir had constituted a sub committee comprising of junior officials. But the committee never came up with a final report on master plan violations which would have been submitted to the government. If at all it would have happened; I would have a copy of the same in my office, which I don’t have.”
Mr Nehru also doubted the ‘tentative’ findings of the committee which was framed under the order number 159-HUD of 2009 dated November 24, 2009. The committee as per senior government sources had identified 2500 structures which had come up in violation of master plan norms in Srinagar city alone.
“There are 1400 cases of building violations which are presently sub judice. The SMC has sealed 48 structures sofar which are in violations of norms. But I don’t know what facts and figures have been projected by the high level committee in 2009 which never came up with its report,” the secretary HUDD said.
Asked about the High Court’s one week deadline to government on policy decision on the issue, Mr Nehru said: “I do not know anything about it. This is upto the government to take a policy decision.” When asked about any committee framed by the chief secretary on the issue, or any scheduled meet with various agencies prior to the submission of government response on policy decision before the High Court, the secretary HUDD said: “We have not met nor are we scheduled to meet on this issue. The Chief Secretary has not framed any committee as well. Whatever decision, it is to be taken by the government only.”
Pertinently senior government officers associated with the master plan had revealed to KNS that out of 2500 ‘illegal structures’ identified by the 2009 committee, 1100 had come up without any permission and in gross violation of related law.
Pertinently, the Srinagar Master Plan is applicable to a total of 417 square kilometres and out of this 160 square kilometres are looked after by Srinagar Development Authority (SDA). Rest of the square kilometres comes under the jurisdiction of SMC. Sources told KNS that both the executing and implementing agencies of the Master Plan had issued notices 1100 violators but to no avail. Sources said there was no follow-up action after issuing these notices to the violators due to political interference mainly from the city based politicians presently ruling the state.
The structures sealed by the SMC are a tip of the iceberg, said sources adding that there is more than what meets the eye as far as the violation of master plan in Srinagar is concerned. “The two executing agencies are virtually helpless to implement the Master Plan on the ground as the higher ups influence these agencies whenever they try to act tough against the big guns,” official sources added. Nevertheless, the intervention from the High Court has raised some hopes among people who really suffer due to illegal constructions and mushrooming encroachments in and around the city.
In two significant orders passed recently by the High Court in two separate Public Interest Litigations (PIL), the government was asked to submit a detailed list of structures that have come up in violation of the Master Plan as also take steps to decongest Srinagar by removing encroachments and formulating a futuristic plan of action for city’s planned development. The petitioners of both the PILs filed in the High Court have sought directions to the state government to remove hawkers from the core area of Srinagar city besides demolition orders for constructions made illegally without permission and in violation of the Master Plan in Srinagar.
Pertinently, SMC sealed 39 structures in last week under High court directions. The issue had surfaced in recently concluded autumn session of legislative council wherein opposition PDP’s members alleged that structures were sealed on pick and choose basis.