Kill the Akrama-Sakrama bill, because it’s a farce

The Governor has once again returned the Sakrama Bill. In any event, given the court case that is going on, any attempt by the government to circumvent the court was bound to land in trouble, so there’s not much point in the Governor also getting embroiled in it. Let’s face it – this Bill should be killed. It’s a bad idea, always has been. But more than that, we should now be thinking about a scarier proposition – we have reached the stage in our politics where it is difficult to do good things because our representatives are being elected on the basis of their ability to do / tolerate bad things !! Akrama-Sakrama is a great example of this.

The correct way to tackle irregularities is to punish those who indulge in them. We have tried to get the easy way out by pointing to the large number of violations in the city, and arguing that it is impractical to set right such a large number. Is that really true? We need to ask ourselves this.

Second, every version of the Bill seeks to let off the officials who indulged in permitting the irregularities and made money off them. Even today, virtually every commercial complex that is coming up is – at the construction stage itself – clearly in violation of the bye laws. What are the different engineers and zonal commissioners doing about this? The Bill has no meaning if it does not also ensure an end to future violations.

The net result of all this is that we’ll keep going around in circles, and areas of the city that are clearly already in need of redevelopment (Begur Road, Banaswadi road, and many other arterially important paths) are held hostage to the ‘likelihood’ of Akrama-Sakrama Bill passing in the Assembly. What is more likely is that going forward, many of these areas will be neglected, resulting in unnecessary depression of their local economies, while the attention shifts to large developments outside the city. The ‘hollowing out’ of the city is the natural consequence of our inattention to its core.

Ashwin Mahesh
About Ashwin Mahesh 86 Articles

Ashwin Mahesh has been involved in public policy for Bengaluru through his work with the Karnataka government. The views expressed here are his own. He is a member of the Lok Satta party. He is also CEO of Mapunity Information Services, and a director at Oorvani Media, publisher of Citizen Matters and India Together. He is also a visiting faculty with the Centre for Public Policy at IIM Bangalore.

6 Comments

  1. Dear Mr Ashwin,
    Nice article … good to read only.
    Easy to say punish the people… but who will do it ?
    I’m not supporting Akrama Sakrama, but same time I will not agree with your view.
    Do you think govt or officials are following all the rules ?
    How many govt offices in this country are built as per rules ?
    How many rented govt offices have proper parking ?
    How many had followed the by law and constructed govt buildings ?
    How many BDA layouts, KHB lay outs had got all the facilities ?
    it is easy to speak by sitting in Ivory tower like IIM, live like aam aadmi earning 30K per month and think, you will get to see what is Akrama, what is Sakrama.
    Only point I agree is go and Punish all those officials who allowed every irregularity knowingly.

    What are you trying to suggest ? Demolish all the built houses in BBMP limit which are not as per plan/Approval ?
    90% of the city will vanish.

    Yes, already things are moving to out side bangalore, thanks to strict By laws from BIAPA and BMRDA. I hope atleast out side city things will be fine.

  2. The article has been written by a person who has had only academic experience. Such people have no idea of civil issues but can lecture a large audience in IIM probably. What this article is missing is it is not about Bangalore that we are talking about. It is the state of Karnataka. We need to look at the whole issue pragmatically. Punish the wrongdoers but why punish the poor people. This is downright stupidity. The governor himself was part of several problems when he was law minister in the scam tainted congress. The cost of aquiring a flat is so huge that only the governor or the author may be afford them. We need a comprehensive solution once and for all or stop all corruption in this country. The governor keeps sending the bill back but

  3. I agree that Akrama-Sakrama is entirely wrong. Anyone knowingly violated the Building code, shouldn’t be allowed a way out.

    However, there has to be a ‘regularization’ scheme for an entirely different class of people. People who bought land in what was erstwhile Bangalore Rural. Or villages around Bangalore, which was all of a sudden made part of BBMP.

    It is entirely wrong to say people staying within 15-20 miles of Bangalore should be indulging in agriculture, as it is impractical and economically impossible. What should these lands be used for?

    Either the govt. should acquire them and do good layouts. But, BDA hasn’t been doing layouts at all in past decade. And most of these lands were part of Gram Panchayats till 2007, and so many people took housing permit from Gram Panchayats and built houses in these areas.

    Some of these are converted lands but not regularized, because they didn’t have layout permission.

    And conversion of smaller pieces of land or layout formation was impossible, considering the amount of bribes that need to be paid and Govt. level approval process! Assume the irony of this – A farmer who has 5 sons but only an acre of land divides the land between his sons, and they all construct houses (or sell their plot of land). These plots are bound to be smallish, not elligible for conversion – not good enough for agriculture.

    Also, there is another angle. If you put a board in MG Road saying ‘don’t urinate in public’ but then don’t provide any public urinals, people will relive themselves somewhere. It is a natural urge.

    Same with housing – If you make it impossible for people to build legally, they will build illegally. Not everyone can pay the obscene 30lakhs – 1cr for a flat!

  4. Mr. Mahesh,
    Are you aware of the illegal layouts formed during 1990 and 1994?
    The gullible sunk their savings and expected to bulid their homes.B B M P in 2007,assured regulariztionand collected monies,But after three months the refunded the amounts.
    It is for these that the Akrama sakram is intended and it will help about ten lakhs of public in Bangalore citya lone that it will help.In point-Neeladri layout in electronic Coity has 900 sites ,sold in 1993. Till now the owners are unable to construct houses as banks refues loans and they cannot be sold for the reason they are illgal.How can youKILL akram sakram,young Mr.Mahesh
    YOU WILL BE KILLING tise gullible who fell for those unsru[ulous people.Please do NOT come in the way of Akram sakram being passed.
    You are UNAWARE OF THE PAST.
    K Nhander sastry.
    Bangalore

  5. Kill the Land Mafia. Not the Akrama Sakrama Bill.

    With due respect to Mr. Ashwin, there is more to the Akrama Sakrama Bill (or whatever new form it takes) than what meets the citizen’s eye.

    A few points for the the Public and the Government to consider:

    1. Going by the prevailing law of the land, Akrama Sakrama is understandably perceived to be unfair. The amendment is seen as condoning, even encouraging, illegality. However, it is a fact that lakhs of gullible people, many of them poor and perhaps unable to afford clear properties are in a lurch as a result of either their stupidity, poverty or both. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Neither is poverty. However, it begs consideration that much of this group have bought or built on illegal land primarily to provide shelter for their families.

    2. The group that is primarily guilty of grabbing or building on illegal land is the land mafia. This corrupt, black money fuelled nexus of politicians, government officials (namely BDA, BBMP, DC, sub-registrars, etc), developers and real estate agents have grabbed or facilitated the appropriation of thousands of acres of government land for commercial gains.

    Between the two, the gullible and poor may be charged with a lesser crime – a crime of omission. They are also the primary victims of the the land mafia. The people that make up this mafia are guilty of a graver illegality as they have not merely looted public land to profiteer, but are equally guilty of cheating the public.

    3. What would be a fair way to dispense justice? Ignorance of the law is no excuse either for the foolish or the land mafia. However, we live in a welfare state in which public good is the ultimate objective, the government would do well to take a more empathetic view of the former and provide reprieve with a penalty. The land mafia, however, need to be dealt more stringent punitive measures or penalties to ensure an absolute stop to their activities. Reclaiming or demolishing such properties will affect families more than it will affect wealthy land developers. Politicians and government authorities who have colluded should be dealt equally stringent punishment to deter such illegalities from ocurring.

    4. Corruption and collusion apart, government organizations such as BDA, BBMP and DC are inefficient and plain ignorant. Ignorance is no excuse even as applied to the government. A few examples: The BDA notifies lands for formation of much needed sites for allotment to the public
    but fails to mark or fence such areas, or even take possession, as required by law. The land, as per BDA’s own rules, should be acquired within 5 years of the notification, yet many such areas remain undeveloped for 30-40 years. In the meantime, the unscrupulous form layouts and sell them to the unwitting. The BBMP knowing full well that registering these areas is illegal turns a blind eye to these transactions. Essentially, one hand of the Government doesn’t know or care what the other is doing. By registering such properties, the BBMP lends a false or psuedo-legal sanctity to these illegal transactions. As we all know, the BBMP will even approve building plans in illegal revenue and BDA notified areas. This begs a question. Whose ignorance (knowing or unknowing) of the law is a greater crime? The Government’s or the public’s? And who should be punished for this?

    5. Civic society and the public are correct to object or file a suit against the amendment. The condoning of illegal land grabbing sends the wrong signal, yet demolishing or displacing lakhs of people will come at a social cost. The lands so reclaimed run the risk of being grabbed again by the political/influential elite. Even if re-allotted to the public by fair means, it would mean depriving of one’s shelter to provide shelter to someone else (as an astute Hon’ble High Court Judge pointed out).

    6. The moral high-ground taken by some that justice has to be ensured on the grounds that it is unfair to those like themselves who have played by the rules is questionable. Were the BDA sites on which their homes are built allotted through due and fair process? Can they honestly say that they or their parents did not own a site in Bangalore at the time of applying for a BDA site? (a pre-condition for applying). Weren’t some of the premium gated communities they live in not in the green belt before the CDP was conveniently changed to accommodate these elite communities? Were the DC conversions of these erstwhile revenue lands done without the developers greasing the DC’s palms? Ignorance of any such deeds does not absolve one of being a passive participant in the subvertion of the process. Indeed, at every level, however ethical, by ommission or commission, most of us have benefited due the flaws in the system. Those who were not rich or influential enough to get the system on their side are the poor. Justice will be found wanting if social justice is not ensured.

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