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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Almost all showrooms on Bypass in brazen violation of law

Minister inaugurated illegally raised showroom; PDP gets details of “explosive violations” from SMC

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 1: Opposition PDP leader Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari has got trapped in the net of his own creation by raising the issue of wetland encroachments in Assembly’s budget session. House Committee’s first sword has begun dangling over the fate of his newly created showroom---Ansari Toyota----on the national highway Bypass near Parimpora. With one of the PDP members, namely Nizamuddin Bhat, distancing himself from the House Committee’s “direction” asking Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to lock Ansari’s under-construction complex, the principal opposition party has collected material to establish, during forthcoming session of legislature, that almost all the automobile showrooms and sale centres on the 18-Km Bypass---Pantachowk to Shalteng---were illegal and raised in brazen violation of law and Master Plan.

Well-placed sources revealed to Early Times that in order to deflect the brunt of the House Committee direction from Ansari’s showroom to other commercial complexes, mostly belonging to friends and relatives of the ruling National Conference (NC) leaders, PDP has decided to prove during next session of Legislature that almost all of these constructions were “illegal” and in “serious violation” of the Master Plan of Greater Srinagar in vogue. According to sources, party’s sympathizers in SMC have provided details of such unauthorized structures to some PDP leaders.

PDP has also obtained a copy of a “secret report” on the unauthorized and illegal commercial complexes in Srinagar, particularly those which have come up on the Bypass till the year 2010. A high level committee, comprising then Additional Commissioner of Kashmir, Ishtiyaq Ahmad Ashai, then Vice Chairman of Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) and now Commissioner Commercial Taxes, Syed Kifayat Hussain Rizvi, then Commissioner SMC, Tufail Ahmad Matoo, and then Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar and now Transport Commissioner, Meraj Ahmed Kakroo, is said to have compiled a detailed report on the illegal commercial structures. Sources said that, according to this report, most of the automobile showrooms and other commercial complexes on the Bypass were illegal.

While some of these structures had come up after the owners fraudulently obtained permission of construction from SMC’s BOCA, others had affected massive changes in laying the buildings in violation of the permission. A number of such permissions for commercial complexes have been found to have been issued in purely residential zones. A number of permissions have been issued without obtaining mandatory NOCs from different government departments. Some of the permissions have been issued for raising of guesthouses but the owners have actually raised automobile showrooms and business centres. In some of such structures, second and third floor has been raised illegally and both, vertical rise as well as stipulated distance from the camber of the highway, have been violated.

Interestingly, last month only, one of the Cabinet Ministers has inaugurated one of such showrooms in Hyderpora on the Bypass. State Information Department is on record to have reported the inauguration of the private business centre by the Minister. This particular showroom had not come up till 2010 and does not figure in the high level committee’s report.

Sources said that PDP was in possession of adequate evidence to establish that Chairman of the committee, Ishtiaq Ahmad Ashai, had avoided formal submission the report to the Government when he came under influence of top corridors of power. Government had constituted a number of sub committees and the final report had been compiled by Ashai-led committee over two years back but the same has not seen light of the day till date.

Sources said that from its contacts in SMC, PDP has obtained details about one particular automobile showroom, situated ay Hyderpora, which, as per records, has sought permission for construction of a guesthouse. Even that had been rejected by BOCA in 2010 with a number of observations. However, in a few months later, SMC issued permission separately in favour of two brothers, for the construction of a guesthouse, for “promotion of tourism” in Kashmir.

However, rather than promoting tourism by raising a guesthouse, the owners set up an automobile showroom, workshops and a sales centre on the premises. They also raised top floor of the building without any permission from SMC and set up master control room and other offices of a private telecommunication company on the illegally raised floors. Distance from camber of the road, running parallel to the highway, to the plinth of the complex has also been found violated by about 20 ft.

“Mr Ansari may not have permission for construction of showroom and sales centre. But, he has duly one for construction of automobile workshop. On the other hand, the showroom opposite to Jamkash Vehicleads in Hyderpora has no permission, even for a workshop. Both will have to be sealed, if law has to be enforced judiciously”, said a PDP activist.

While a number of such illegal constructions are result of the owners’ high political and bureaucratic clout, over 70 percent of them are being widely attributed to wanton corruption in SMC. Commissioners and Executive Officers are known to have collected bribe money, ranging between Rs 10 Lakh to Rs 50 lakh, for issuing each such permission, permitting horizontal and vertical violations, change of land use and finally getting many of such violations compounded after charging nominal penalties from the owners. None of the successive governments has initiated any action against even the Ward Officers or Khilafwarzi Officers with whose connivance an illegal commercial structures boom has been witnessed on the Bypass and other areas in the last 16 years.


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