Sealing continues in Delhi: GK-1, Hauz Khas Village under scanner after Def Col, Khan Market
On December 22 last year, as a team of municipal officials accompanied by members of Supreme Court-monitored committee sealed ‘unauthorised’ commercial premises in upscale Defence Colony market, traders across shopping centres of the national Capital were thrown into a tizzy.
Less than a month on, the drive has so far sealed nearly 600 shops — some fully, others where portions have been barricaded — in prominent markets such as Khan Market, Meharchand Market and Defence Colony market for violations of municipal norms.
Not that rules were not bent before. In fact, these markets have mushroomed since 1960s amid a blatant disregard for municipal, environment and basic fire safety norms.
In Defence Colony, for example, residential spaces have been allegedly used for commercial use. Traders in Khan Market have allegedly extended shopping spaces beyond permissible limit while the shop owners in South Extension are fighting a battle for an increased floor area ratio (FAR). If the eateries in Hauz Khas Village, part of a Lal Dora village, are a classic example of disregard for fire safety and environment norms, Connaught Place traders have ignored heritage bylaws.
“Most of the markets have blatantly violated bylaws by increasing the seating capacity and commercial spaces beyond the permissible limits. We keep penalising people but things return to square one once a drive is over. We must have stringent laws and do away with involvement of multiple agencies,” said a South civic body official.
According to Arunava Dasgupta, head of urban design at School of Planning and Architecture , “If the planner will not envisage the growth of market in terms of policy and laws, then they will become vulnerable places. If growth is not anticipated and provision for expansion is not created, laws will be violated. A pre-emptive approach is needed to stop this.”
“Take Lajpat Nagar for example which was a small vegetable market with a few groceries. But since it was located along the Ring Road, expansion was inevitable. The problem is authorities failed to anticipate it,” he added.
VK Gautam, director, enforcement, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), said the civic body had found violations and issued notices to shops earlier. “Our enforcement and health team is conducting a fresh survey again, We will ensure that no one flouts norms,” he said.
Last time, sealing was done in Delhi by municipal authorities in 2006, when the SC-appointed panel cracked down on unauthorised constructions. Besides, local and civic authorities keep running drives against the violators. Last week, after the Kamala Mills fire incident in Mumbai, the Council warned traders associations to ensure that the restaurants abide by trade licence conditions, fire safety norms and follow permitted sitting capacity.
The market associations, while acknowledging violations, demanded a foolproof policy with less hassles.
“There are shop owners who violate norms. But the civic authorities should intimate us through notices before taking any action. Also, the conversion rates fixed by DDA are too high and rules should be more clear,” Atul Bhargava, president New Delhi Traders’ Association.
Vijay Arora, of the South Extension Market Association, agreed. “We do not mind paying conversion charges. But there should be uniformity in FAR. For some shops the civic body has approved 300 FAR ,for others it is less,” he said.