Illegal constructions galore along Handwara Bypass

Illegal construction on agricultural land along newly constructed Handwara Bypass in North Kashmir. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
Illegal construction on agricultural land along newly constructed Handwara Bypass in North Kashmir. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, Aug 27: Despite ban on constructions, several illegal structures including multistory shopping complexes and a nursing home have come up along the new alignment of Kupwara-Baramulla highway at North Kashmir’s Handwara town.
In order to prevent vandalizing of agriculture land, authorities have banned construction work within 100 meters on either side of the Handwara Bypass. But, there seems to be no let up in the construction of structures as scores of shopping complexes, other commercial structures and houses have come up within the limits.
Aimed to ease the burden on the main highway, the Government decided to construct a road to Bypass the Handwara town and it was subsequently thrown open for traffic in 2014. But, the new stretch of road has been marred by the illegal constructions with authorities turning a blind eye to the violators.
The illegal structures have come up on agricultural land and in violations of Land Revenue Act. The Ribbon Development Act is also being violated as the required distance on either side of the highway is not maintained.
Chief Executive Officer, Handwara Muncipal Committte, Habibullah Darzi, when contacted said that there were no illegal constructions and all the structures have sought permission from the authorities, “The structures have been raised in last five- six years with proper permissions from the local administration,” he said.
Asked how were they permitted to raise structure on agricultural land, he said: “The farmers whose land was acquired for the road were allowed to construct commercial structure along the Bypass. It was the reason the farmers granted their land for the purpose,” he said, adding the agricultural land was useless as the road blocked irrigation canal to the patch of land.
He said all the constructions have been stopped after the Governor issued an order wherein the land within 100 metres on either sides of the highway was declared “no construction zones.” “No new constructions are underway,” he said.
Locals of the area said although Government wanted to stop conversion of Agriculture land, it has failed to put a check on the illegal construction “The tall claims of Government have fallen flat here. People are openly vandalizing the agricultural land in broad day light. How can such huge structures evade their attention?” Farooq Razaq Mir, a local asked.
Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Khalid Jahangir, when contacted feigned ignorance about the issue. “I have no knowledge about it. Let me check the facts first,” he said.