In pursuance to the directions of the Honourable High Court, the concerned authorities have sealed a number of structures in different areas of the city for violation of the Srinagar Master Plan. It is very welcome that the Judiciary has become active again in preservation of the character of our capital city by taking serious note of the free for all violations of the Master Plan, building bye laws and other regulations concerning the environment. Earlier they had taken a similar stand in case of the dying Dal Lake.
The Honourable High Court has also directed to file statements about the assets of the ward officers. No doubt the main cause for violations of the master plan has been corruption yet one cannot overlook the violations committed by the Government itself. There is hardly any department of the government that has not violated not only the land use policy, but the building bye laws and above all the master plan itself. Let us begin with the Srinagar Development Authority itself. A bye pass road was constructed to relieve traffic congestion through the main city roads. Normally, this road should have been fenced on two sides with iron grill like the one usually seen on motorways so that nothing could come up on two sides. Instead of being a bye pass, the road now virtually passes through the middle of the city. The agriculture land has been converted into housing colonies, shopping complexes, workshops and so on. SDA itself has constructed a massive office on the bye pass. They did not allow an international group of Kashmiri non-resident doctors to construct super-speciality hospital in the same area quite a distance away from the bye pass on the plea of wrong land use! Now, to relieve congestion created by the deliberate actions of SDA, we may have to construct another city bye pass as the present one passes through the middle of the populated areas.
One fails to understand why the Government departments like SDA or the organisations like the Municipal Corporation should be constructing shopping complexes, shopping arcades and so on. The former is supposed to regulate all building permissions and implement master plan while as the latter is supposed to keep the city clean. In earlier times, some of these organisations acted like watch dogs to ensure order and cleanliness in the city. Now, these have themselves become the violators. A couple of decades back people were really scared of violating land use and building norms. Now there is a free for all.
The violations have not only been committed by the people in general with the connivance of the authorities but the state organisations and institutions themselves have violated the master plan which they were supposed to enforce. Agricultural lands have been converted for construction purposes with impunity. New Housing Colonies approved by the authorities have no proper drainage and sewerage nor have these proper roads. The height of commercial buildings in the midst of residential colonies makes these look like sky scrapers. Most conspicuous is the Police Headquarter standing like the Pharaoh’s pyramid in the Egyptian desert! It is reported that the State Police has been constructing buildings all over the state without any permission and clearance from the concerned authorities. Probably they consider themselves to be a law unto themselves. Apart from constructing a huge the headquarter building, they built a Public School on the bye pass where no buildings should have come up. They probably followed the SDA example?
The number of hotels in residential areas, on the ecologically sensitive banks of the Dal Lake is in dozens. These have been constructed without giving any thought to the disposal of sewage and provision of parking. If one starts compiling the violations of various building laws and bye laws, it would go into a complete book. But the moot point is who allowed this to happen? Not only the concerned officials but the politicians patronising them. In the past, all these deliberate violations of the law have turned into a source of funds especially at the election times. The mere sealing of the properties now may also turn into a lucrative source of election funds so desperately needed by all the political parties. The real lesson for preventing such violations in future would be demolitions and that should begin with the government buildings constructed in violation of the master plan and all building norms and bye laws. If the state cannot take to task its own members violating the laws, what right it has to punish its citizens? Enforcement of the law must begin at home. Let us hope that the Honourable High Court which as the most welcome step, has taken a very serious view of these violations goes all the way to ensure some order in our living.