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25,000 illegal structures in Himachal cry out for comprehensive solution

Shimla, May 15: Illegal multi-storied structures, both commercial and residential, rose in earthquake-sensitive Himachal Pradesh with what was alleged to be political connivance. Successive Congress and BJP governments in the state refused to act against illegal constructions and in fact brought in six retention policies to regularise them till the state high court, last year, set aside a law to regularise illegal constructions.

The issue again came into the limelight when the Supreme Court ordered demolition of 13 illegal constructions in hotels and resorts in the picturesque Kasauli hills and a violator allegedly shot down a woman town planner during the demolition drive on May 1.
Official sources told IANS that there are over 25,000 unauthorised structures in the state, mainly dotted across this capital town, once known as the Queen of Hills. These comprise over 2,500 hotels, including high-end resorts.
The state governments had brought the retention or regularisation policy on six occasions that enabled thousands of illegal residential structures to come within the legal framework, an official told IANS, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“Cases should be filed against the officials who helped the land encroachers and unauthorised construction mafia flourish in the state over the years,” 71-year-old Desh Bandhu Sood, a third generation resident who was born and brought up in Shimla, told IANS. High-level officials and politicians were involved in the mushrooming of illegal structures which have been coming up for several years. “It’s simply a nexus among the corrupt politicians, builders and bureaucrats,” Sood added.

In the state capital, a large number of buildings are in danger of collapsing like a pack of cards even with a moderate intensity temblor that can be catastrophic for congested settlements like Sanjauli, Hira Nagar and Ladakhi Mohalla which could take a heavy toll on human lives. H.N. Kashyap, a former Shimla Municipal Corporation commissioner, blamed the government for its failure to formulate Shimla’s development plan, the city covered under the central government’s Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). “There are massive building violations in the new merged areas of Shimla. In the New Shimla area, initially two-and-a-half floors were allowed in a residential building. When there was a reality boom, residents and builders were allowed to raise two more floors,” he said. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita