Time ticks on illegal traders

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 26.07.13
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Unauthorised commercial structures on residential plots have just 72 hours’ time to either shut down or face bulldozers.

A public notice was uploaded on the website of Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) — www.patnanagarnigam.in — on Wednesday asking people not to venture in commercial projects in four areas — Patliputra Colony, Srikrishna Puri, Srikrishna Nagar and Rajendra Nagar — of the city that were developed for “residential purpose” only.

According to the order issued by PMC commissioner Kuldip Narayan, the civic body would forcefully seal all such commercial establishments on residential properties of the erstwhile Patna Regional Development Authority (PRDA) if the orders are not followed willingly within the given time.

The order also states that structures made in violation of the approved layout plan at colonies developed by the erstwhile Patna Improvement Trust such as Srikrishna Puri and Rajendra Nagar should be removed willingly or the civic body would demolish it forcefully and the expenses for the same would be borne by the person concerned.

However, none of the officials could specifically say when the 72-hour deadline would end — whether on Friday (as the order was signed on Tuesday) or on Saturday (as the notice was uploaded on the website on Wednesday) or even after that.

A PMC official said an advertisement would come out in newspapers and the deadline would start after that. Another official made it more confusing as he said the residents would be notified through loudspeaker announcements in the respective localities.

Sources claimed that such orders have been issued according to the directives of Patna High Court in a PIL (CWJC- 8152/2013) against illegal mushrooming of high rises and unauthorised commercial use of residential properties in the city.

The PRDA had allotted residential plots to people at Srikrishna Puri, Boring Road, Srikrishna Nagar and Rajendra Nagar in the 1960s on lease for 99 years. However, hundreds of shops, banks, private companies, schools, nursing homes and even government offices came up in the houses in these areas over the past two to three decades.

“We are running our shop for the past 15 years and we would be in dire straits if it is closed down. The government has been collecting taxes at commercial rates all these years, then on what grounds are they claiming that the land should be used only for residential purpose now?” said Ghanshyam, the manager of Millennium Stationery and Gift Gallery on Boring Road. Ghanshyam added that the average rent charged from the shops on residential properties at Boring Road ranges between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000.

A few well-known commercial establishments in the lane connecting Boring Canal Road in front of Gorakhnath Complex crossing to Boring Road in front of Yamuna Apartment include 9x9 Super Market, Tunday Kababi restaurant, Bikaner Sweets and Pastries, an office of Coal India Ltd and branches of State Bank of India and ICICI Bank. All such establishments make payments in lakhs against monthly rental for using the residential properties.

Those who are running such commercial activities are not ready to give up either. “We pay Rs 1 lakh as rent. I do not understand what the civic body was doing all these years when government offices and schools were opened in residential houses in this area. We would sit on a dharna with our family and children if the PMC comes to evict us,” said a staff at Tunday Kababi, an eatery at Srikrishna Puri.

Several others are ready to knock the doors of the judiciary to challenge the PMC order. “It is not possible for us to close our business just because the PMC has woken up from its slumber. We would challenge the PMC’s order at Patna High Court, if they take further action,” said Sanjeev Kumar, the owner of Sanjeevani Medicals on Boring Road.

However, the civic body chief seems to be firm on his order. “We have asked people to stop commercial activities at Patliputra Colony, Srikrishna Puri, Srikrishna Nagar and Rajendra Nagar, and remove unauthorised construction in violation of the approved layout at colonies developed by the civic body at Srikrishna Puri and Rajendra Nagar. We would definitely take legal action against the offenders if they do not comply,” said Narayan.

On the other hand, Patliputra Co-operative Society has claimed that they do not come under the PMC jurisdiction and thus they are not bound to follow any of its order. “Patliputra Colony is looked after by Patliputra Co-operative Society, which was established in 1952. As Patliputra Colony falls under the Kurgi gram panchayat area, we do not come under the PMC jurisdiction. Moreover, we have also received directives from the registrar of cooperative societies for taking action against illegal commercial use of residential lands and we are taking requisite actions,” said P.K. Verma, the chairman of Patliputra Cooperative Society.

A meeting of 11 registered architects with the PMC commissioner was also held on Thursday. “The commissioner made deliberations on the detailed survey reports on 449 under-construction buildings beyond 11m along roads less than 20ft wide submitted by us,” said Neeraj Saunik, a PMC-registered architect.

In Delhi, traders were caught in a similar situation in early 2006 following a high court order on sealing of commercial establishments in residential areas. Nearly 50,000 traders were affected during the drive.