G.V.R. Subba Rao
Three-fourths of the constructions in the city are in violation of rules
On an average, 50 apartments and 2,500 houses are constructed every year in the city
Government’s approach towards Town Planning is lop-sided, says CPI(M) leader
VIJAYAWADA: Any building mishap in the city, major or minor, points to the flagrant violation of rules in the Town Planning wing of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC).
A year ago, a major fire broke out in Agri Gold office in Catholic Complex on Mahatma Gandhi Road, in which two persons died of suffocation. An under-construction building caved in at Moghalrajapuram last week, killing four persons. Even as the city was coming to grips with the tragedy, a building near Maris Stalla College developed cracks allegedly due to intensive digging operations carried out in the neighbouring plot for the construction of a multiplex. In all these instances, it is beyond doubt that the laid rules and procedures have not been followed.
A panoramic view of the problem points to the utter disregard citizens have for the laid-down procedures, while the officials turn blind eye to continuing violations and unauthorised constructions. The mad rush witnessed for the Building Penalisation Scheme (BPS) – the VMC had already sold 15,000 applications forms and received 13,600 applications – clearly indicates that nearly three-fourths of the constructions in the city are in violation of rules, if the number of permissions accorded were to be taken as a premise.
On an average, 50 apartments and 2,500 houses are constructed every year in the city. This roughly translates to 20,000 to 25,000 permissions in the last decade. And, the number of property tax assessments in the city has also gone up to 1.52 lakhs from 1.31 lakhs four years ago, VMC sources say.
“So many constructions with flagrant violation of rules would not have come up in the city without the knowledge and connivance of the officials,” says Arja Gopala Krishna Murthy, president of the newly formed ‘Middle Class Welfare Association’.
The other argument is that citizens are forced to resort to violation of rules in view of cumbersome rules and higher fees. For instance, a person would have to shell out at least Rs. 3.15 lakhs towards fee and taxes, including open site tax, vacant land tax, building permission fee and the like, for obtaining permission to construct a house on a 200-square yard plot.
In the case of construction of a multiplex near Maris Stella College, the officials wash of their hands by maintaining that permission was given by the district collector. In respect of the building collapse at Moghalrajpuram too, the officials advance the argument that they were unaware of the existence of a well that was later filled up for raising the structure.
Former Mayor Tadi Sakuntala questions, “We have information that the then Municipal Commissioner Natarajan Gulzar had denied permission to the multiplex. But, the permission was sanctioned by the officials in Hyderabad. Is it not a mockery of local self governance?”
Experts feel that the recent incidents in the city underscore the need for carrying out soil testing and studying the ‘history of the land’ before taking up a construction. Also, there is a need for insuring the building-under-construction so that the insurance coverage can help victims in the event of any mishap. “Any type of building can be constructed on any type of soil, but we have to take adequate precautionary measures,” cautions K.R.K. Prasad, Principal of Velagapudi Ramakrishna Siddhartha College of Engineering. In the blame game that goes on between the officials of various departments, law-abiding citizens end up as the worst sufferers.