The illegal conversion of residential properties into commercial properties continues unabated in Jammu and Kashmir.
Such illegalities have a drastic and irreversible impact on the environment. It causes a lot of inconvenience to people residing in the neighbouring properties. Also, importantly too, it creates pressure on civic amenities including the water, electricity supplies, garbage disposal etc. Can administration allow its countenance? The answer cannot be in affirmative, more so as when the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has already directed the government to act against the illegal structures in Srinagar and Jammu as well as elsewhere in keeping with the notified Master Plan. The Master Plan (2015-2035) for Kashmir was prepared and a formal notification issued in the backdrop of orders of the high court and the then government in March 2014. The government had then formally enacted legislation— J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2014— to protect, for one year, thousands of unauthorized constructions that exist in twin capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu besides Katra.
However, the provisions of the Act did not protect under-construction or the buildings and structures whose construction had not been completed on the date the Act came into force, March 5, 2014.
The law also did not also apply to the buildings and structures constructed on public land, road or other public utility and also to constructions not complying safety measures, if any issued by the government.
The legislation was enacted so that a comprehensive policy could be formulated to tackle the issue of the violations by the end of March 2015. The period was later extended.
A high-level committee was formed and it had recommended hefty penalty against the violators in lieu for regularization of the construction with minor deviation. In case of major violations, it had proposed that there should be no leniency. While Master Plan is already in place, there is need for the government to act and take to task those who resort to illegality as well as against the official who allowed such illegalities. There is also the illegal conversion of agriculture land for commercial purposes in the urban areas which shall also be halted given the importance of food and dependence of people for varied reasons. Appropriate steps, at the earliest, are needed to bring an end to the illegalities committed. Also, agricultural land to the extent possible shall need to be preserved.