City turned into a concrete jungle
Srinagar, C: Lockdowns imposed across Kashmir to stave off protests against abrogation of Article 370 and to contain the spread of CoVID-19 have proved blessings for the authorities of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), which has allowed dozens of illegal constructions including some massive shopping malls. Violating the building rules has been normalized by the SMC authorities in lieu of bribe worth crores of rupees.
Official data in possession of Kashmir Dot Com (KDC) reveals that construction of nearly 160 buildings were permitted by the SMC after August 5, 2019. “All these buildings including some massive shopping malls were constructed in record time to evade public complaints, “said a senior official in the SMC.
“The result of the inaction by the authorities is today clearly visible when we take a look at the city, which has been defaced city to an inconceivable level today,” he said.
Sources said that officials in the SMC granted permission in lieu of bribe to allow violators take full advantage of lockdowns by bending building rules and the specifications identified in the building permissions issued to them. The illegal constructions that have come up during the last one year and brazen violations of other building construction rules are inevitably pointing the finger towards the authorities, who kept their eyes shut to this large scale plunder, for reasons best known to them.
“These permission holders, who have bent building permission rules during the lockdowns to evade accountability and vigil by the authorities paid a huge bribe to a particular group of officers and politicians,” they said.
The permissions were granted in residential areas in violation of the Srinagar Master Plan and the owners had a prior plan to convert these buildings into commercial complexes. These illegal multistory buildings have come up in residential areas
of Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, Hazuri Bagh, Goni Khan, Baghat Barzulla, Hyderpora, Rehmatullah Colony Mujgund, Karanagar, Ali Jan Road, Habib Colony Baghat, Muslimabad Bemina, Pandach, Noorbagh near JK Bank, Qamarwari, Cement Kadal, Lalchowk, Bund, Regal Chowk, Hari Singh High Street, HMT, Mustafa Abad, Umar Abad, Laway-Pora and other areas.
As per sources, the SMC officials concerned first grant building permission for residential houses which are subsequently converted into multistory commercial buildings as the SMC officials in connivance with owners and brokers bent the permission rules and changed dimensions of the approved drawing plan.
Despite repeated protests and objections by the locals in these areas against the commercial constructions and the SMC, no action was taken initially, officials said.
Explaining the modus operandi of the SMC officials of allowing the illegal construction, sources said authorities would initially seal the buildings against public complaints for few days to show that they are seized of the matter but will allow construction after few days without visiting the spots and exhausting the complainants by moving them from pillar to post.
“When the SMC authorities itself accepts that these buildings are illegal, why don’t they raze them down? How do they first allow them to construct these buildings even we locals raise objections before them. How does this nexus happen? It should be probed in depth by investigative agencies and book the involved employees,” locals said.
Sources said that ward officers, building inspectors, and ground staff take bribes from these owners to allow illegal constructions.
As per documents with news agency (KDC) permissions were granted for minor renovations and repairs of existing structures, but flouting the permission norms owners constructed new structures on the said permission in connivance with SMC officials.
Meanwhile Commissioner SMC Gazanfar Ali, confirmed to KDC that lot of violations of building rules have taken place in Srinagar city, before his joining the Corporation, which are being looked into and actions against violators is underway.
“One hundred illegal structures have been raised to ground so far, while 56 buildings were sealed and the action-driven process is continuing,” he said.
When asked about the action taken against the SMC officials, who have been dishonest to their duty to check the large scale violation of building rules, by turning a blind eye towards it, Gazanafar Ali said, “I have issued the orders of suspension against two officials, found responsible for negligence, while five officials attached and twenty have been transferred.”
“The process to cleanse the corporation is on and we will not spare anyone guilty of being irresponsible,” he said.
“For various other violations and deviations, which have come to our knowledge, we have issued the notices to the owners of the buildings, which will be dealt according to law,” he added.
Pertinently, SMC has been in news for all the bad reasons for quite some time now, ranging from allowing the vandalization of the city through illegal constructions to corruption, from nepotism to favoritism and several, allotting contracts and disbursement of payment with the support of forged documents, several such complaints are presently being probed and preminaliraly raids have been also conducted at the residences of some employees.