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Loksatta opposes Akrama Sakrama scheme, proposes alternative
04 March 2010

"The proposed Akrama Sakrama scheme is a disaster waiting to happen, and will only compound the mistakes of the past. We should raise our voice against it to protect our neighbourhoods from continuing plunder", said Mr. C Hariharan, a spokesperson for Loksatta Party. "Any illegality should first be recognised as one," he said, adding that "any scheme to tackle an illegality should be harsh on the guilty and send a positive signal to the rest. Akrama Sakrama is the exact opposite - sending a free pass to the guilty, and a 'you have been cheated' greeting card to law-abiding citizens.

By paying a fine, anyone who illegally constructed anything, in gross violation of building laws, can get it 'regularised'. But only those violations which happened before December 3, 2009! To add spice to this bizarre story, there are various degrees of violations - 'only' 25%, 50% violations etc. The Congress and JDS have also not come out strongly against such behavior - they are only saying that the fines should be less!

The real victims of violations are not the bureaucrats and the politicians who have permitted them to happen in the first. The pain of these violations is borne by law-abiding citizens in the neighbourhoods who have watched with horror as the negligence and corruption has become rampant. Paying a fine to the government is not going to relieve their suffering, the party said. The government is only making a fool of those who followed rules in the past. This is not only unfair and unethical, it will prompt more people to disobey the building bye-laws, confident that there will be more Akrama-Sakrama schemes in the future.

The party offered a number of ideas as an alternative to Akrama-Sakrama. The focus, said Mr Hariharan, should be on implementing systems which prevent violations. For example, approved building plans should be digitised and shown against the master plan to ensure consistency. Certified pictures of constructed buildings with the name of the certifying officer should be made publicly available. Local communities should be enabled to scrutinise compliance and complain against violations. Buildings which violate current laws should be visibly marked, and made to pay a continuing heavy annual penalty till they fall in line with laws. And such 'tainted' properties should not be allowed to be sold.

He added that the poor alone should be exempted from this - most of them have already 'paid' for their violations - as bribes and extortions to the powers that be. And most have taken up residence on plots owned by others or the government out of desperation, because successive governments have done nothing to provide housing for them.

Loksatta also opposed the BBMP's plans to build massive infrastructure partly using funds from Akrama Sakrama. The party spokesman expressed doubt that many people would pay in the first place, but even if they did the money collected from violators should be earmarked for the respective neighbourhoods. It should not be spent on some fancy new infrastructure that in any case never seems to deliver what it promises, he added.

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