By Poojil Tiwari
On Monday, 25 December 2017, Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh decided to constitute a five-member cabinet committee to finalise legislation and policy for the regulation of unauthorised colonies. The panel, which will be headed by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, also has Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Local Government Minister Navjot Sidhu, Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa, as its members.
The committee has been instructed to submit their report within 30 days. In addition to legislation and policy, the committee has also been instructed to come up with composition fee rates for regularisation of these unauthorised residential colonies.
Motive of the ordinance
The press release issued by the office of the Punjab government said, “Unplanned areas would be brought in the planning framework with the proposed legislation, thus facilitating basic amenities and better quality life for the citizens there.” In the longer run, the government aims to better the ‘circulation pattern’ of the roads in order to curb the unsystematic growth of buildings and ensure positive urban development. Given that illegal colonies fall out of government jurisdiction, the people living in these colonies have been deprived of basic facilities such as proper road and sewage system and the government authorised water supply.
Unauthorised colonies in Punjab violate either of the following laws- Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act 1995, the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Act 1995, the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act 1976, The Punjab Town Improvement Act 1922 and the Punjab Municipal Act 1911. The ordinance also seeks to consolidate offences under the following laws.
Illegal housing in Punjab
A survey conducted earlier in 2017 placed the number of illegal colonies in the state at 5340, covering approximately 20,500 acres of land. Furthermore, the survey also identified 17,004 buildings or plots as ‘unauthorised,’ that is, not having approval from the government.
Over the past few years, the government has already disposed of 1,36,856 cases of unauthorised individual buildings. The Amritsar Development Authority (ADA) at 335, has the highest number of pending cases under it. This is followed by the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) which has 255 cases. In April 2017, the government had announced its plan to establish a committee to look into unauthorised colonies and to transfer the ownership rights to the occupants under its housing scheme.
Over the past few years, the government has issued various directives when it comes to regulating unauthorised colonies in Punjab. The policies regulating illegal colonies in Punjab have been framed before in 2013, and again in 2014. In 2016 before the state elections, the Punjab Government had issued a notice legislating unauthorised colonies for one month, from December 15, 2016, to January 2015, 2016. The notice divided unauthorised colonies into three categories: where more than 65% of the area is sold and built up, where 35% to 65% of the area is sold and built up and where less than 35% of the area is sold or built up. However, post-January 15, the local authorities were allowed to charge three times the compounding charge for six months after which the development charges were slated to be raised by 15% for another six months.
While the developers and the people praised the government’s efforts to regulate these illegal colonies, they criticised the haphazard implementation of the policies. The magnitude of the problem of unauthorised colonies can be ascertained by the fact that the issue was at the forefront of the manifesto of every party in the 2017 state elections. However, irregular and unpredictable policies have led to stagnation at work. The principal objective of the 5-member committee should not only be to come up with a comprehensive policy regarding unauthorised colonies, but also to lay down rules for its effective implementation.
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