The episode at Carlton Towers could have happened anywhere in the city. The fire of 23rd February claimed nine and many more were hurt. The question of plan permissions, collusion, bye-law and safety violations and more are all being discussed in the media.
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One of the points being made by authorities (especially the BBMP) now, is that they cannot be blamed if builders and owners violate plan sanctions after occupancy certificates are issued.
Really? Let’s take a closer look at how plenty of wrongdoing happens during the plan approval process itself, i.e. before buildings are constructed and occupied.
Some years ago, citizens discovered a major case of building plan and fire safety code violations for an building in Jayanagar 1st block. But it took until December 2009 for this case to be completely exposed for what it is really is: several officials involved were batting for violator all the way.
On 23rd December, just over two months ago, the Lokayukta delivered a formal indictment against a list of officials that reads like half the city’s top brass: BBMP Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena, BWSSB Chairman P B Ramamurthy, BWSSB Chief Engineer Venkatraju and three town planning officials. Justice Santosh Hegde has, following due process of law, ordered a departmental inquiry against these officials. (See our story)
Incidentally, Meena accepted a Namma Bengaluru award on behalf of the BBMP just last week.
The case is simple. A builder put up a multistorey apartment complex on a 12 foot wide road. The fire department, itself under fire from the citizen-led opposition for having originally greenlighted the building, had actually asked the BBMP last year not to issue an occupancy certificate.
Still, BBMP Commissioner Meena, relying on select advice, re-issued approvals to the building, after his predecessor S Subramanya cancelled it.
Taking the baton from the citizens, an investigative effort by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog Lokayukta resulted in this detailed expose. Relenting under its scathing finding, the state government asked BBMP Commissioner Meena to cancel the plan sanction, for the second time, late in 2009. (Read story here).
A tall battle for a single building’s violation.
Take another case with a different twist. Earlier last week, Citizen Matters reported online that the BBMP has admitted that it wrongly sanctioned a plan for a convention center in Panduranganagar, in violation of zoning rules in the city’s Revised Master Plan (RMP) 2015. Panduranganagar is located off Bannerghatta Road, close to the Indian Institute of Management. (Click here for the detailed story.)
The under-construction convention centre in on a plot size measuring 400 sq metres. A minimum of 2000 sq metres is required for this type of building as per the rules, and this was not followed by the BBMP’s Town Planning department, Bommanahalli zone. The applicant got approval. It’s not clear at this time whether fire safety norms were in the breach also. The residents’ association has recently filed a writ appeal in the High Court, asking for the sanction to be revoked.
There you have two cases of violations the BBMP could have avoided during the approval process itself.
No hope for us, with so much collusion? The picture is not that dismal. As the Carlton Towers case dies from the news, keep your eyes open for stories about citizens fighting back such violations, for therein lies hope.
Updated March 3rd 2010