Empowered Committees soft-paddling on assigned task, fail to meet even once

People rue confusion on period of applicability of policy

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Nov 24: Though more than two months have lapsed since the notification of policy on unauthorized constructions in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar and holy town of Katra yet people have not been able to submit applications for availing its benefit mainly because of failure of the Empowered Committees to start working on the assigned task. Moreover, the Housing and Urban Development Department has not cleared confusion on period of applicability of the policy.
The State High Court, in a Public Interest Litigation titled Mujeeb Andrabi Versus State of J&K, had directed the State Government to come up with a policy in view of a very large number of Master Plan/Building Byelaws violations in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar and holy town of Katra.
Accordingly, a High Level Committee was constituted by the Government and subsequently on its recommendations, the J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2014 was enacted so that a comprehensive uniform policy can be formulated to tackle the issue of these violations.
Thereafter vide Government Order No.230-HUD of 2014 dated August 5, 2014, the Expert Committees were constituted to scrutinize all Master Plan/Building Byelaws violations and come up with a policy as per the provisions of Section 3 of the J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act.
After several years long exercise, the State Cabinet put seal of approval on the policy and the same was notified by the Housing and Urban Development Department vide SRO-391 dated September 20, 2017 mentioning that the policy has come into operation with immediate effect.
As per the provisions of the policy, the General Administration Department vide Government Order No.1376 dated October 26, 2017 constituted Empowered Committees-one each for Jammu city, Srinagar city and Katra town for scrutinizing the applications to be submitted for regularization of illegal/unauthorized constructions in the limits of Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations and Municipal Committee Katra.
However, the Empowered Committees headed by Divisional Commissioners and Deputy Commissioner Reasi have not started working on the assigned task so far, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding none of the Empowered Committees has even convened introductory meeting as a result of which several members of these committees are not aware of the details of the policy.
EXCELSIOR has received large number of telephonic calls from people, who are ready to get their constructions regularized as per the provisions of the policy but have not been able to do so because of lack of clarity on certain important aspects.
“We approached the Jammu Municipal Corporation and Jammu Development Authority to ascertain as to how and where to submit the applications as per the provisions of the policy, which we have read on the website of the Housing and Urban Development Department, but failed to get any satisfactory reply”, they regretted, adding “even the officers of the JMC and JDA are not aware of the contents of the policy”.
They further said, “it is a matter of concern that a policy which was given so much hype by the Housing and Urban Development Department has not been appropriately placed in the public domain for the information of people”, adding “the Government should have published the policy in the news-papers along with the procedure for submission of application forms”.
“The dilly-dallying approach on the part of Empowered Committees is notwithstanding the fact that these committees have been mandated to bring the illegal and unauthorized buildings/ constructions and land use or building use conversions into the planning framework”, sources regretted. Moreover, the Empowered Committees are required to facilitate the implementation of the Master Plans in the light of the policy.
Despite repeated calls on his phone to ascertain when the Empowered Committee will start working on the assigned task there was no response from the Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Dr Mandeep K Bhandari.
However, several members of the committee, when contacted, confirmed that no meeting has been convened till date. “It is the prerogative of the Divisional Commissioner to convene meeting and hold deliberations”, they added.
Similarly, several members of the Empowered Committee for Srinagar city confirmed that no meeting has been called by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan till date.
Moreover, the Housing and Urban Development Department has yet not cleared confusion on the period of applicability of the policy.
In the notification dated September 20, 2017, it has been mentioned that the policy shall be applicable for a period of one year—from 01.04.2017 to 31.03.2018 for the local areas of Srinagar, Jammu and Katra excluding the areas coming under J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA).
How the policy can be given effect from April 1, 2017 when it was notified on September 20, 2017, sources asked, adding “practically the policy will be applicable for six months only and this aspect is required to be clarified by the Housing and Urban Development Department”.
It is pertinent to mention here that survey teams constituted for identifying, locating and categorizing the land use/Building Byelaws violations have reported 4131 violations of various types in Jammu city, 5500 in Srinagar city and 58 in Katra respectively.

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