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Action against zoning violations is just ‘eyewash’, say RWAs

Bengaluru: Residents’ welfare associations (RWAs) fighting illegal commercialisation of their neighbourhoods are frustrated with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) apparent apathy towards shutting down outlets that are violating zoning regulations.

When residents of Indiranagar complained to the BBMP about a new commercial outlet — an ayurvedic treatment centre — that started doing business in a bylane, health officials from the civic body turned up at the spot-on March 7 and shut down the centre. The next day, however, the ayurvedic centre opened its doors and continued to do business.

Suspecting that something was amiss, residents sought the mahazar report of the shop’s closure through an RTI application, and they discovered that the BBMP had not filed any report. In response to the RTI query, the civic body said the owner shut down the centre voluntarily after he was orally informed by them about residents’ complaints. A copy of the RTI reply is with The Hindu.

Residents allege that this incident reflects the BBMP’s lack of will to enforce zoning regulations. Even civic officials admit that there is a problem in this case. “The case clearly indicates laxity on part of local health officials. Suitable action will be initiated [against them] soon,” said Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Health, BBMP.

However, the story is not very different in other areas. “It’s been an uphill task for residents to get civic officials to act against illegal commercial establishments. We have come across several cases of collusion as well, where civic officials give ample time for establishments to procure a stay order from court,” said Nithin Sheshadri of Koramangala RWA.

In December 2016, the BBMP Commissioner issued a circular asking all commercial establishments violating zonal regulations to shut shop. Since then, the civic body claims to that a total of 83 businesses operating in residential areas have been closed.

Interestingly, in Bommanahalli, an outer zone, 34 such establishments are said to have been shut down, while the core zones of East, West and South, where commercialisation is a menace, have together seen only 41 establishments close.

Meanwhile, confusion prevails as the BBMP council, by favouring traders, resolved to form a committee to consider the issue. However, BBMP officials said they were going ahead with closure of such units as it was borne out of a High Court order.

The question, ask residents, is when exactly will the civic body get down to it.

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