Illegal commercial spaces flourish in various parts of Srinagar
Srinagar, Nov 15: People were expecting unabated illegal constructions would stop after the imposition of the Governor rule, but over the last few months, scores of illegal buildings have come up at various places in the heart of the Srinagar city. Sources said that besides many illegal structures having sprouted up, there have been many such instances in the recent months, with the Srinagar Municipal Corporation turning a blind eye to them. “In place of sprawling bungalows, dozens of fresh commercial spaces are seen rearing their heads in various parts of the Srinagar city from last few months,” sources maintained. We were expecting that the Governor’s administration will take serious steps to stop illegal constructions and also take action against the officials who over the years have been involved in the illegal constructions, but instead more illegal constructions have come up within the city,” said one of the local residents here in Bemina Srinagar. Sources said that even posh residential areas are fast turning into breeding grounds for unauthorized conversion of residential properties for commercial purposes. Housing colonies were developed for residential purposes and no commercial building permissions were accorded in these colonies other than the area earmarked for commercial activity by the concerned authorities. However, sources said that majority of these housing colonies has acquired the status of more of a commercial hub having big shopping centres of every type including sale and service of motor vehicles. Sources said in Srinagar city’s Jawahar Nagar, Rajbagh, Gogjibagh, Wazirbagh and Karan Nagar, Bemina, Qamarwari, Shalteng which are well planned residential colonies are fast turning into commercial areas in complete violation of Srinagar Master Plan guidelines. “The residents said that there have been several instances when they have lodged complaints with the authorities against people, for renting out their residences for commercial purposes, however, no action were taken by the authorities beyond issuing a customary notice to such residents. Moreover, it has also been seen that residential owners who have rented their residences for commercial purposes have been paying property tax as per taxes applicable for residential property. This is considerably less that the tax applicable for commercial property. “As per the Master Plan of the Housing Colony, in every block and sector there is provision for minimarket. However, few years back when authority of law and order had started gradually diminishing, the residential colony started turning into hub of commercial activities,” sources maintained. Sources told KNS that in the earmarked residential zones, nursing homes, restaurants, insurance offices, banks, and beauty salons etc. have come up with full immunity. Many reports were prepared in past to identify all illegal commercial conversions in order to take action but nothing has happened. Enforcement wings exist in all agencies like Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Srinagar Development Authority, Housing Board etc. but a kind of game goes on in between these agencies wherein they keep shifting the blame from one to other,” sources maintained. A senior official, on condition of anonymity, said: “Many issues are involved, including laxity on part of the enforcement agencies. And then there is political interference. Though a number of notices are issued to violators, people go to court and get a stay.” One of the top government officials told that the authorities have been directed to take strict action against violators.