The BJP on Thursday asked whether the Odisha government is collecting “funds for election from commercial builders in the state”, following a departmental notification to ‘regularise’ unauthorised structures in commercial and private buildings in urban areas.
The Odisha government on Wednesday opened an amnesty window to regularise unauthorised constructions in urban areas of the state. Under the Housing and Urban Development Department’s (HUDD) “Scheme for Regularisation of Unauthorized Constructions, 2018”, citizens can get their unauthorised constructions regularised in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Brahmapur, Sambalpur, Paradeep, Talcher, Anugul, Kalinga Nagar, Puri and Konark.
Odisha BJP Vice-president Samir Mohanty told The Indian Express, “Real estate developers, especially in Bhubaneswar, are worried they cannot sell apartments. They are hoping that the (amnesty) mechanism allows them to market their unauthorised structures as free from any penalty… or future litigation with the government”. The BJP also held a press conference where it said, “if common people benefit from this scheme then we can say it is successful. Or is the government collecting funds for election by regularising structures that were hastily built before the RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development) Act?”
As per an HUDD announcement, the amnesty period, which began on June 20, will continue for six months. Applications will be disposed of in 60 days. “To regularize irregularity, we have brought about this scheme”, said HUDD Minister Niranjan Pujari on Wednesday. He also said that “many (projects under) construction have not taken approval as per building regulations”.
“We have divided urban spaces into four categories- Municipal Corporation Area, Municipality Area, Notified Area Council (NAC) Area, rural area”, said Dr Krishn Kumar, Vice Chairman of Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA). “These categories are further divided into residential and non-residential areas. Commercial builders may have to pay more than private builders”. Kumar added that the amnesty does mean all rules have been discarded. “It means a relaxation of certain parameters. For example, (if a commercial building) had to reserve 40% space for parking, now it stands at 20%”, he said.
However, former HUDD officials told The Indian Express that this scheme will specifically help commercial builders, real estate dealers, and owners of private hospitals and shopping malls, who may have violated regulations governing such construction. “Builders who have built apartment complexes without approval on green zones and flood zones will now get away,” said a former HUDD official, requesting anonymity. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) President Niranjan Patnaik also questioned what benefit this amnesty may provide to poor people. He added that “the scheme seems to specifically benefit the rich”.
The Odisha government has said that the fines collected through this amnesty will be deposited in the Comprehensive Development Plan Infrastructure Development Fund (CDPIDF) and utilized in developing parking infrastructure in these areas.