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Sunday Special » Perspective

Posted at: Jul 8, 2018, 12:40 AM; last updated: Jul 8, 2018, 1:46 AM (IST)

Poor pay the penalty

Harshraj Singh
Poor pay the penalty
The loss is theirs: As authorities reluctantly enforce law, people pay for the greed of colonisers. Photo: Himanshu Mahajan

Harshraj Singh in Ludhiana

The government has not introduced any new urban estate or colony in Ludhiana in the past two decades. However, over 1,500 illegal colonies (officially identified) have sprung up under the jurisdiction of Greater Ludhiana Area Development Authority (GLADA) in the district and Ludhiana Municipal Corporation. 

Sources say that the actual number of illegal colonies may be much higher than the official figures, even as the new ones are coming up. It is the economically weaker section that is presented the bait of affordable housing. Plots in illegal colonies are offered at low costs and easy installments. A majority of the area used for colonies falls under GLADA’s jurisdiction. 

The population in MC areas has crossed 17.50 lakh mark as per its survey for delimitation of wards in 2017. With increasing population, a large number of unauthorised colonies have come up at Hambran Road, Jassian Road, Churpur Road, Shahbana Road, Ladian, Dhandran Road, Rahon Road, Ladhowal Road, Tibba Road, Jaspal Bangar road, Tajpur Road and other areas in the district. 

According to GLADA’s estate officer (regulatory), there are around 1,400 illegal colonies under its jurisdiction in the Ludhiana district. 

How the buyers are lured

To attract migrants, hoardings, usually 50 yards in size, advertising sale of ‘affordable’ plots are put up on the outskirts of the city. To sell plots in illegal colonies, colonisers offer freebies like a bike on purchase of a plot measuring 50-100 yards. The cost of a 50-yard plot in such colonies ranges between Rs 2 and Rs 2.5 lakh. 

 To check the authenticity of one such advertisement, we spoke to a property agent over the phone, “Manzuri lena sadda kamm hai. Othe taan 500 plots ne. Tusi bas apna plot lavo, registry karvao, atte ghar banao (It is our responsibility to get approval for the colony. There are 500 plots. You just buy a plot and start construction after getting the registration work done).” Unfortunately, sometimes people are not aware about the difference between legal and illegal colonies. A migrant woman, resident of an illegal settlement on Churpur Road, confesses, “Nobody informed us about the illegal status of the colony. Now that we have invested all savings, we hope that the government sympathises with us.”

Absence of amenities

“The roads in these colonies are just 15-20 feet wide, while laws state that these should be at least 35 feet in width. Sewerage system, water supply, parks and other basic amenities are unavailable as well,” says Karamjit Singh of Ludhiana Architects Association. 

A majority of illegal settlements have been developed on agricultural land. After construction of a few roads, electricity poles and street lights are installed by private parties to attract buyers. With passage of time and lack of maintenance, the area becomes dark again. “It is impossible to construct even a simple structure without connivance of building branch municipal officials. Even regularisation policy of 2014 has been misused by the nexus of illegal colonisers and MC officials,” claims Kuldeep Singh Khaira of Vigilant Citizens’ Forum.

Unauthorised structures all around

Violation of building bylaws in Ludhiana is a common sight. Sanjay Goel, Chairman of Indian Institute of Architects, Punjab Chapter, and one of the directors of Ludhiana Smart City Limited, says, “Not more than five per cent buildings have been constructed as per the approved plan or building bylaws in the city during past 20 years.” The MC’s website mentions that around 30,000 challans against the illegal constructions have been issued to the violators so far. Former councillor Inder Aggarwal feels the process to get a building plan approved is very complex. “The government should make this process simpler,” he says.

Numbers tell a sad story

President of Council of RTI Activists, Rohit Sabharwal says, “As per information obtained under RTI, less than one per cent buildings got completion certificate, mandatory as per rules. The parking space is either misused for commercial purpose or is unavailable.” He has filed different PIL/COCP in Punjab and Haryana High Court against violations of building bylaws in hotels, nursing homes and hospitals, commercial complexes and also shop-cum-flats. “If the notices are issued against the violations, action is generally not taken,” he adds.

Action on the ground is awaited 

Last year, around 1,670 maps were approved by the MC Ludhiana. “More 5,000 building maps are expected to be approved in the next one year,” says Mayor Balkar Singh Sandhu.

Official speak

The applications for regularisation of around 1,000 illegal colonies were earlier rejected for want of documents. Only 91 colonies stand approved by GLADA/PUDA. We have demolished around 182 illegal colonies in the last 18 months and served notices to 270 violators, while FIRs have been registered against 104 colonisers during this period. FIR against colonisers of 750 more illegal colonisers have been recommended. — Harpreet Singh Sekhon,  GLADA Estate Officer (Regulatory)

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