Govt implementing Katra Master Plan with ‘feeble limb’

Even 2 yrs after SAC decision, Zonal Plans nowhere in sight

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, May 3: Notwithstanding repeated thrust of the Governor on planned development of Katra town, the base camp for pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi, the Government has failed to strengthen Katra Development Authority with sufficient manpower and Enforcement Wing without which strict implementation of the Master Plan is not possible.
The Master Plan-2031 of Katra town was approved by the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor N N Vohra on March 28, 2016. With this, the jurisdiction of Katra Development Authority (KDA) was increased from 11.06 square kilometers to 79.56 square kilometers.
Huge commercial expansion of the town and its railway connectivity had necessitated a mid-term revision of the earlier Master Plan of Katra, which would have otherwise continued till 2021. The revision was made in pursuance of the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970 and Rule 13 of the J&K Development Authority Rules, 1976.
Despite wide-spread increase in area of responsibility of the Katra Development Authority, the PDP-BJP Coalition Government has failed to strengthen the Authority thereby leaving implementation of Master Plan to a ‘feeble limb’, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“The present manpower at the disposal of Katra Development Authority is grossly inadequate to ensure implementation of Master Plan in letter and spirit”, sources said, adding “what to talk of creation of adequate number of new posts, even for some important existing positions in Authority only ad hoc arrangement has been made by the Housing and Urban Development Department”.
This can be gauged from the fact that there is no full time Enforcement Officer for the Development Authority and charge of the post has been given to the Enforcement Officer of Katra Municipality. Similarly, charge of the post of Assistant Town Planner has been given to the Assistant Town Planner of Udhampur, who looks after the work of Katra Development Authority few days a week.
Moreover, no step has been initiated so far to provide full-fledged Enforcement Wing to the Katra Development Authority on the pattern of Jammu Development Authority despite the fact that without such a wing strict implementation of Master Plan in 79.56 square kilometers area is practically not possible, sources said, adding “in the absence of such a mechanism the Katra Development Authority is largely relying only on the information vis-à-vis violation of Master Plan being provided by the people”.
“The non-serious approach of the Housing and Urban Development Department on this front is notwithstanding the fact that planned growth of any town depends on effective enforcement”, sources said, adding “Enforcement Wing not only ensures enforcement of Building Bye-Laws but also undertakes drives on regular basis to clear the encroachments”.
Similarly, Zonal Plans are nowhere in sight even more than two years after the approval of Master Plan by the State Administrative Council. This is notwithstanding the fact that Governor N N Vohra along with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, while reviewing various ongoing developmental works of Katra in a meeting held on February 17, 2017, had directed for preparation of Zonal Plans under Master Plan-2031 within the shortest possible time.
Even Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, 1970 and Master Plan-2031 lay enough thrust on preparation of Zonal Plans. “With the preparation of the Master Plan or as soon as maybe thereafter, the Development Authority shall proceed with preparation of Zonal Plans for effective implementation of Master Plan”, read Chapter-III of Jammu and Kashmir Development Act.
Similarly, the Master Plan read: “The developmental activities shall be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Master Plan and Zonal Plans”.
“The only development regarding preparation of Zonal Plans that has taken place during the past over two years is finalization of Expression of Interest (EoI) for outsourcing of exercise”, sources said, adding “the Expression of Interest is likely to be floated within next few days”.
“Had there been full time Town Planner at the disposal of Katra Development Authority the exercise to prepare Zonal Plans could have been initiated much earlier”, sources said.