The Sector 17 inferno has exposed the utter laxity on part of the UT estate office which has apparently failed to put a check on grave building violations in commercial building across the city.
On Sunday, it was a disaster waiting to happen at the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology building in Sector 17, given the plethora of grave violations within the building which was not checked even once, what to talk about action by the estate office.
Over the years, the estate office has been drawing flak for its incapability of developing a mechanism to curb the cases of building violations. All buildings in the city are governed by provisions of the Punjab Capital Act, 1952.
Under the present system, the estate office issues misuse notices to the violators of building bylaws under the Chandigarh Estate Rules, 2007. It charges a penalty of Rs 500 per square yard from each violator, who are given time to remove violation, failing which the building is resumed.
The estate office has issued around 1500 such notices to various traders in different sectors, including Sectors 17, 22, 26, 34 and 35.
As per official record, there are over 500 buildings in the city resumed by the estate office, but these could not be got vacated since the appeals of the traders are pending with the authorities concerned. As per rule, the estate office cannot get a resumed property vacated till the appeal is decided. In many such cases, eviction is pending for more than three decades.
A senior official said the current system had failed to serve as deterrent. "The traders are well aware that the authorities can do nothing much except issuing notices. The process of eviction is lengthy and take years," rued the official.
Estate office short staffed
The estate office has just four junior engineers for keep a check on violations across the city. As per rules, the junior engineers are responsible for physically checking buildings in their respective areas for violations. Due to shortage of staff, the estate office is unable to keep a close watch on the violations.
Soft on govt depts
With the estate office turning a blind eye, the government departments of Punjab and Haryana have been flouting building bylaws in their offices in Sector 17. There are around 50 offices of both states functioning from government-owned buildings in Sector 17, and majority of them have not complied with the norms.
In the name of action, the estate office has been serving them notices to remove violations from the past several years.
Some of the violations done by the government departments include fully covered verandas up to the parapet with cabins of wood or fixed material. In many cases, verandas have been used for dumping old furniture and files. The departments have also deviated from the sanctioned plans by making changes in the internal planning. Corridors have also been encroached upon, leaving no passage for escape in case of fire.
Despite repeated attempts, assistant estate office (AEO) Rahul Gupta was not available for comment.