Every day there are illegal constructions coming up in various places in Bengaluru. Are the authorities blind? Can’t they see these as they drive past them? Why is this going on even when laws strictly prohibit them?
While illegal constructions should in most cases be demolished, there would be important considerations. These are spelt out in a Supreme Court judgement on the Delhi demolitions. This has been mentioned and explained in the CAF PIL against Akrama – Sakrama, which was signed by me on behalf of CAF, when I was its secretary.
The substance of the PIL was that in a large majority of the cases, people are victims of cheating by building contractors in collusion with government officials and politicians. In such cases, the victims should be given relief and not punished, while the real criminals go scot-free.
Of ineffective laws and incompetent officials
The Campa Cola housing society case is a typical example of how horribly wrong things can go if court cases are not handled properly. Here the victims have lost their homes while no contractor or government official is punished.
In Adarsh scam, the politicians and the flat owners in powerful positions have allegedly pressured the officials to gain illegal gratification in the form of property. Thus the former chief of the army staff and chief minister are allegedly flat-owner beneficiaries of the scam, in which case they may not be innocent victims, but could have been active participants. Such cases have to be dealt differently.
In the instances of illegal buildings coming up in Bangalore, one has to apply the same yardstick. Are these commercial buildings in residential areas or are these housing flats? Are those who purchased the flats for their homes victims or connivers?
It is perhaps easier to stop the construction before its completion rather than find remedies after finishing and occupation.
The affidavit filed by the government in High Court said they can’t take action against government servants because there are too many of them. They can’t punish contractors because they are not traceable.
This effectively means that politicians get away not because the law is inadequate, but more due to corruption and incompetent lawyers.
Also, a comprehensive law to punish building contractors and their co-conspirators and proper implementation of the law through total transparency will rid us of the menace of illegal construction.
Why does BDA even exist?
I had asked through RTI queries all building construction sanctioning authorities, BWSSB, BDA etc as to what do they consider when issuing sanctions.
The replies were pathetic. For example, BWSSB was asked whether they consider the availability of water for occupants of buildings and uses to which it would be put. The reply was no. They give water if available, when the user / owner / occupant applies for water connection after construction.
If they are giving water only if it were available on completion of the building, why take their sanction at all before commencement of construction? The same applies to BDA. I asked them whether they consider aspects, such as road space in front of the building at the time of sanction. The reply was as delightfully vague as that of BWSSB.
Mind you, BDA was set up with the sole purpose of “coordinating” with parastatal bodies to ensure availability of public services to building occupants and this is a major parameter of planned development. If they are not doing this basic function, why do they exist? In fact, in 1997, committee of secretaries had suggested that BDA be wound up as it had outlived its utility.
Actually, Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) Act was legislated since BDA failed to do its job and that is why the Chief Minister is the ex-officio chairperson of BMRDA.
BDA is retained perhaps because it is vested with the power to acquire land, a convenient device that aids notification / denotification, which is useful for speculation in land, which the long neglected Town and Country Planning Act sought to prevent.
Another tomfoolery that goes on is “A – katha / B – katha.” This is a very useful instrument of money-making in which, even banks, unwittingly are parties. More on this later.