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Omar tweets about illegal construction at Rajbagh: SMC says permission granted in 2010

Srinagar, Feb 07: While Opposition National Conference raked up the issue of “illegal” construction in the flood channel at Raj Bagh, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claimed the permission was granted in 2010.

National Conference legislators raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly about a mall being constructed near Zero Bridge at Raj Bagh in the flood channel.

 

“I’ve been told it is Irrigation & Flood Control land. This small patch of land played a vital role in 2014 floods, allowing us to pump water out,” the former chief minister also tweeted.

Omar, who is also party’s working president, wrote on the micro-blogging site: “We set up one of our high-capacity pumps there & pumped water from Raj Bagh into this enclosure. I’m amazed to see a construction site now.”

Another National Conference, leader Ali Mohammad Sagar, said in the Legislative Assembly, “We know what we all faced during the 2014 floods. Now, you are allowing another giant construction on the bank of Jhelum, which is a flood land.”

While Commissioner SMC, Riyaz Ahmad Wani, claimed that the government had granted permission to the construction in 2010.

“All departments, including SMC, Irrigation and Flood Control Department had given NOC in 2010 for the construction,” Wani told The Kashmir Monitor.

“The building is being constructed as per proper permission. We cannot demolish this construction,” he said. In 2010, Omar was heading the NC-Congress government in the state.

When asked that the building is being constructed illegally in the flood channel, Wani replied, “If you have any reservations about this structure, you can file an RTI and get all the details.”

Irrigation and Flood Control Minister, Sham Lal Chowdhary, said that he has asked for all details about this construction. “The information will also be shared in the Assembly,” he said.

Earlier, in the Assembly, he said that he did not know who was constructing the building.

“I have asked for the papers to know the exact position of the land near Zero Bridge Raj Bagh where a hotel/mall is presently under construction. As of now we have no information whose land is it,” he had said.

After which Omar responded, “It is a shame Jammu & Kashmir government’s PHE Flood & Irrigation Minister has no idea who is constructing a mall near Zero Bridge in flood channel in brazen violation the rules. Sham Lal says his department has no information about who owns the land.”

The building is being constructed just few hundred metres away from Chief Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control office.  So far, three storeys have been constructed and pillars have been erected for the fourth one.

Chief Engineer did not respond to phone calls. However, an official said that permission might have been granted under the influence of politicians and bureaucrats. “Everyone knows that construction is being raised illegally at a place that is free construction zone. How does it happen you should ask to the government,” the official said, wishing not to be quoted by name.

Meanwhile, locals at Raj Bagh said the construction was started in 2016 during the unrest.

“Till 2016 end, we did not know because the place where the construction is taking place was fully covered with green tarpaulin so that nobody raises objections,” Mohammad Shafi, a resident, said. “When it was raised to second storey then we got to know about it.”

A shopkeeper at the Raj Bagh said that SMC did not allow them even for minor repairs without proper permission, whose shops were destroyed by 2014 floods.

“It seems that rules are only for common masses while government is allowing constructions for influential people even in flood channel,” the shopkeeper said.

Following the September 2014 floods, the High Court had directed the government to remove encroachments along the water bodies. After which government removed constructions on several places on the banks of the Jhelum.