After six failed attempts, will Punjab govt’s seventh amnesty do the trick?
CHANDIGARH: The future trajectory of the Punjab urban growth will be largely determined by the success or failure of the soon to be implemented new policy on regularisation of the unauthorised colonies and plots/ buildings therein.
The Punjab cabinet approved the final draft of the policy earlier this week.
If the success and failure of the previous drafts are to be measured on the basis of twin objectives of number of illegal colonies regularised and checking of growth of illegal colonies, then they can be categorised as failures.
UNAUTHORISED COLONIES SAGA
The state government came up with the definition of an unauthorised colony only in 2010 after it introduced amendments in the Punjab Apartment and Property Regulation Rules (PAPRA), and incorporated relevant provisions for compounding of the offences in the rules.
In rule 31 (3), some conditions were laid down for compounding of the offences of unauthorised colonies to fulfil certain conditions so as to make an offence under the PAPRA eligible for compounding.
But, as per provisions incorporated, only a few colonizers actually opted for getting the offences compounded.
In fact, most of the colonies did not fulfil the provisions as laid down under Rule 31(3) (b), (c), (d) and (e). This was the first attempt at regularising illegal colonies. Thereafter, policies were introduced in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018, which also were unable to solve the problem.
SCALE OF FAILURE
On an average, only 428 illegal colonies were regularised per every previous policy. As per government figures, of more than 8,000 illegal colonies, only 2,565 colonies were regularised.
In 2014, there were 5,340 illegal colonies (as per the 2014 regularisation policy), now the government officials claim there are more than 8,000 illegal colonies falling under the jurisdiction of housing and local government departments.
The acreage under illegal colonies has also increased in the last eight years. The 2014 policy estimated 25, 000 acre under illegal colonies. This jumped to 40,000 acres (on the basis of application received from colonisers for regularisation of illegal colonies) in 2016. The state government hasn’t given an estimate on the total acreage under illegal colonies in the current regularisation policy.
Officials of both the local government and housing department are not sure about the acreage number as the exact inventory (size, boundary) is not available with them.
Blaming the government for failure of the previous policies, Gurwinder Singh Lamba, general secretary, Punjab Colonisers and Property Dealers Association, who also attended the group of ministers meetings during the deliberations on the new policy, said, “Previous policies didn’t provide adequate relief to colonizers. The implementation was faulty as officials had too many discretionary powers, charges were too high and conditions for provision of infrastructure were also impractical. Instead of amnesty policies, these were punishment policies.”
While colonisers and government officials associated with formulation of the new policy are confident that this time response will be positive, but, there are also voices of concern that contend new policy is bound to fail.
“Loopholes in previous policies led to their failure. These loopholes still exist. Regularisation of a plot can be done irrespective of whether the colony is regularised or not, which is a big disincentive for the coloniser to regularise the colony,” said MS Aujla, former director, town planning, Punjab local government department.
So far, only 2,565 colonies have been regularised out of total 6,662 applications received.
“It is presumed that only those colonisers pursued the cases for regularisation who created new illegal colonies to avail the opportunity to have saleable area up to 70 to 80% with just paying 10-20% of the applicable charges, with no responsibility to develop and provide infrastructure, and no compulsion to take completion certificate,” says Aujla.
Local government minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was also vociferous in his objections to the policy labelling it as an openended offer to colonisers to create illegal colonies. Sidhu had emphasised that the built-up area should be the basis of regularisation and not saleable area.
The new policy has replaced built-up area with sold area (as was the case in the April 2018 policy) as the basis of classification of illegal colonies.
Even colonisers are not sure about the success of the new policy. “The most important issue here is the implementation quality. Some of the previous policies were poorly formulated, though the 2013 policy could have met with higher success. But, it was not implemented in a proper manner. We have our concerns that the latest formulated policy might become a victim of poor implementation,” said Lamba.
The final draft of the policy was approved earlier this week.