Unless the action against unauthorised buildings continues, soon structures will come up without regard for the sanctioned plan, is what the Madras High Court observed while delivering a judgement in 2009 against unauthorised structures.
Four years down the line, it appears, the Coimbatore Corporation has not followed the order.
The local body chose to act only last week after a fire accident in a building snuffed out life of four women.
The Corporation began with sealing and locking buildings under construction or that have just been completed.
As of Sunday, it had sealed and locked 36 buildings, to which it had issued notices more than four months ago. The civic body ought to have acted against the buildings after the expiry of notice period in September, October or November last year.
But it chose not to act.
The 36 buildings were part of the 55 the Local Planning Authority had identified for the Corporation early last year.
The civic body did not explain the inaction, either. Mayor S.M. Velusamy told journalists that the Corporation had acted as quickly as possible and the action had a few parallels. He also said that the action would continue.
The Mayor’s assurance was fine but the Corporation action against unauthorised buildings should extend to those that are in use, says K. Kathirmathiyon, Secretary, Coimbatore Consumer Cause. The organisation was the petitioner in the public interest litigation that prompted the Court to make the aforementioned observations.
Without waiting for the Local Planning Authority to furnish list of buildings, the Corporation should act against the unauthorised structures, for public safety is of utmost importance. But then the civic body does not have the intent to act against such buildings, for, if it had it would not have reduced the per-sq.ft. penalty for the unauthorised structures from 50 paise to 25 paise.
Mr. Kathirmathiyon says that in 1993 the Corporation penalty was 50 paise a sq.ft. In 2003 the then Council chose to bring it down to 25 paise a sq.ft., which is nothing but a move aimed at going soft on violators.
If what the Corporation is saying is true and if people have to repose faith in civic body, it has to increase the penalty.
It should also stop assessing such buildings for property tax. The assessment appears to lend a certain amount of legitimacy to the buildings, which not many people are aware. If the Corporation were to do so it will send a strong message to the public.
But with an eye on the possible loss of revenue because of not assessing such buildings, the Corporation is reluctant to act.
“Money taking precedence over public safety is bad governance,” Mr. Kathirmathiyon says.
He suggests that the civic body insist on a completion certificate and a similar one from the Fire and Rescue Services Department.
When the latter refuses to issue one for buildings that are not fire-safety compliant and the Corporation discovers that building are in violation of approved plan, it should stop assessing the buildings. And the Tangedco can be asked to not supply power.
Without the basic amenities, builders will be forced to fall in line.
It is a simple step, which if the Corporation begins will establish the rule of law. And it should do so by starting with public buildings and special buildings for which fire safety license is mandatory.
Corporation Commissioner G. Latha says that the civic body has thus far stopped with issuing notices but not acting against buildings with violations. It will begin soon.