While the land developers and holders now have to pay for regularising illegal colonies, the government has spared the real culprits.
The new regularisation scheme talks about everything from plots and colonies to penalties and violators but it's silent on punishment to the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) officials who let thousands of illegal colonies come up.
A few years ago, the authority identified 5,340 illegal colonies on about 20,600 acres in the state. The number has shot up by 10,000 roughly, adding another estimated 40,000 acres. This is besides the many scattered illegal buildings in all three regions of Punjab.
Sub-standard construction and the unauthorised cutting of plots defeated the objective of planned development and stalled the planned extension of services. Illegal colonies continue to mushroom, though the successive state governments allowed and regularised all in 2001 and 2006.
The state has development authorities, improvement trusts, municipal corporations and PUDA to keep vigil on illegal colonies but none of these civic bodies seem to have done their duty. "All were hand in glove with politicians: from free plots to bribe, to even cut in profits, players in the illegal colonies game. Officials were silent partners in the crime of bad governance, so why only the public should take the punishment," said a real-estate developer.
He called for punitive action against everyone from PUDA secretaries to subdivisional officers. Most illegal colonies have regular water-supply and sewerage connections. "Who provided it?" said another land developer, adding: "Only a ruling party leader can help you get that."
"Whether the amnesty scheme is good or bad is debatable but before asking public to pay up, the government has not specified what action it has taken against the officials whose duty was to check illegal colonies," said Patiala Rural legislator Brahm Mohindra of the Congress.
"Illegal colonies mushroomed under the nose of officials; the government can't spare them," the legislator said. The Congress will raise the matter in the coming assembly session.
Replying to the allegation, PUDA principal secretary A Venu Parsad said the department, from time to time, had taken action against negligent officials. "I can't give you details off hand but there are provisions for punishment to officials and we are making new rules for tougher action," said Parsad, adding that since the amnesty scheme was for public, it had no mention of officials.