Sakrama and the great plan sanction fraud

Even as the BJP government totters this weekend, yet another scam in the government’s favourite playground – Bengaluru city – stands exposed.

For over three years now the spectre of the Akrama Sakrama Bill has been hanging over the city. The bill is meant to ‘regularise’ illegal buildings in return for owners paying penalties. The premise of such a bill is that the BBMP will otherwise put all measures in place to bring the percentage of violations down to the single digits (some percentage in every society will flout the law) with stiff penalties. Regularising illegal buildings is therefore imagined as one-time amnesty measure, and that is all it should be.

Not so. In an ongoing investigation, Citizen Matters has exposed that the BBMP’s attitude to illegal buildings in the city has only taken a turn for the worse. BBMP quietly shut down its own Technical Vigilance Cell’s call centre in July 2009. The call centre was setup in December 2008 to encourage and respond to whisteblower complaints on illegal constructions (plan sanction violations). It received nearly 800 complaints in seven months. The TVC even started taking action, until in a shocking order signed by then commissioner Bharat Lal Meena, closed it. (Meena now denies issuing the order, see our report here).

Worse, as a follow up to shutting down the call centre, BBMP transferred the job of monitoring violations and taking action to the engineering departments at the zonal level, precisely where the rot has festered and grown. This is akin to asking the wolves to watch over sheep. Also, while BBMP set up the vigilance cell centre boldly through an announcement in the newspapers, with phone numbers galore, the shutdown was quiet – through an internal order.

A senior BBMP town planning official admitted plainly last week to Citizen Matters that the BBMP has failed in checking violations.

This is why the Akrama Sakrama bill, in its current form, is a joke. At this rate, Bengaluru will need a Sakrama bill every year, to regularise illegal buildings that are continually permitted! The bill is merely the result of the colluding public, politicians and babus, each giving the other a nod and a wink.

The governor has done the right thing by not signing this bill, whatever be the claims made on his partisan motives or otherwise.

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