‘A Joshimath-like situation awaits us’: Residents slam bylaws that are changing the face of Panchkula read full article at worldnews365.me

The frequent changes in housing bylaws in Haryana have created a deep anguish for the residents of the Mansa Devi Complex (MDC), Panchkula. To begin with, the Haryana Building Code, 2016, was repealed within a year after it was implemented and the Code, 2017, came into effect.

Though the floor area ratio (FAR) remained the same, an additional floor was permitted to be built at the same time as the maximum permissible height (MPH) was increased to 15 metres.

Thus, while the MPH without stilt parking was 12.5 metres and 15 metres with stilt parking, one could now construct four floors as long as the 15 metres height was not reached. The latest amendment to the Code was done in June 2019, which allowed for increasing the MPH to 16.5 metres, subject to the fire department’s approval.

Citizens have alleged that such a change in the law is illegal, arbitrary, infeasible and endangers human safety. It also jeopardises the structural safety of the adjacent buildings, they said. The Indian Express spoke to a few residents to find out how the amendments have affected them.

Sanjeev Tiwari, who built his house in the MDC while the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) (Erection of Building) Regulations, 1979, were in effect, is now running between court and administrative offices due to the “illegal” changes in FAR and MPH. He paid the fine as more FAR was allowed. But when it was changed in 2016, in accordance with the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran provisions, no refund was made.

Tiwari said he paid the penalty despite the fact that he built his house in accordance with the law at the time. With the new housing law in place, the FAR and MPH continued to change on a need-to-know basis. According to Tiwari, lawmakers did not conduct any scientific or structural studies before approving the changes.

Last year in August, Tiwari filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh against these changes. The case will come up for hearing in February.

Tiwari pleaded that the changes be quashed on “grounds that the Respondent State lacks legislative competence to frame them, they suffer from the vice of arbitrariness, they endanger the lives of multiple residents …and violate their right to privacy and shelter, in addition to vitiating their legitimate expectations and violating their right to equality.”

Following the implementation of the Haryana Building Code, 2016, the maximum FAR and MPH for different categories of plots in ‘core areas and areas other than core areas was increased in order to bring uniformity to the various Building Rules in Haryana’.

It is worth noting that the same Building Code, 2016, stipulated that additional FAR is permitted on payment of charges approved by the government from time to time. Furthermore, the department permitted the registration of a fourth floor as a separate dwelling unit in the case of a residential plot, encouraging the owners to construct further. “I built my house in 2013, before the new laws came into effect in 2016,” said Yogesh Gupta, another resident, from Sector 6, Panchkula. “I don’t get proper sunlight now as the neighbouring house has built a skyscraper which has blocked the ventilation of my house. These haphazard and arbitrary changes will disrupt the symmetry of existing residential areas and the aesthetics of the area, which is contrary to established principles of urban planning. The Supreme Court made a landmark decision in the case of Chandigarh, and we hope the same for us,” said Gupta.

The affected residents, have made multiple representations to the authorities concerned but to no avail. Dr MS Ahlawat, a resident, said the unethical changes are causing psychological trauma among the people. “We are concerned that we will suffer the same fate as Joshimath because this area is prone to earthquakes. We will all lose our lives simply because someone is profiting from all of this,” he said.

‘Bylaws benefit only builders’
“The amendments are beneficial to Gurugram builders. Builders purchase land on behalf of others, provide them with the lower floor, and sell the upper floors to strangers for profit. Many people I know have sold their homes and moved away, and many more are planning to do so. The administration does not consult the residents before making changes. One notification comes and the rules are changed overnight,” said SK Nayyar, president of the Panchkula Residents Welfare Association.

“Who will pay the legal fees if we go to court? Even so, there will be no hearing for years,” said Nayyar.

He added that they have written over 100 letters and even met Ajit Bala Joshi, Chief Administrator, HSVP, several times but to no avail.

Dr Sarvjeet Jattan, another resident, said that when sectors such as these were planned in Panchkula, it was intended for low-density population. “However, now one building has four families. This has had an effect on the overall infrastructure. We now have water and sewage issues, and even electricity is intermittent,” he said.

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