Source: The Times of India
Residents of the suburbs of Coimbatore are often caught between the rules of the city corporation and the local bodies which were in charge earlier when it comes to permissions for buildings, and this, they say, provides opportunities for corrupt practices to flourish. They alleged that though building documents and plans were approved online by auto DCR (automatic scrutiny of development control rules) and other software, town planning officials have introduced manual inspection and complicated the process.
Builders said applications going online had eased the process but had not cut corruption. “There is no clarity about regulations, so official interpret them as they wish and extract money from us,” said a builder.
The process was put online three years ago by a former corporation commissioner to curb corruption.
“The previous commissioner introduced online approval system but more effort needs to be taken by the administration to prevent corruption. Unnecessary delays in approval and corruption are the reason why people start construction without building approval,” said S M Samy, a DMK councillor.
One builder who wanted to do it the right way had to wait for several months and even then he could not get the approval documents. The builder added that most times it is the lower level officials who were corrupt. “The building values have gone up mainly because we add the bribes we give to the cost price,” said the builder.
An official said that delaying approval for plans led to revenue loss for the corporation. “Officials fail to recognize the revenue lost every year because of this,” he said. An official at the town planning wing added that one approval could yield the civic body between Rs20,000 and Rs,50,000 based on the land area including fees and taxes.
When an official was asked about these allegations, he said, “Panchayat approvals are generally not accepted by the corporation. If the layout is approved by Directorate of Town and Country Planning, there will not be any delay.” The civic body gets approximately 200 applications every month. “After the documents are loaded online, the applicants get an SMS and can for updates online,” he said.
Builders and individual house owners, however, said the website was not updated regularly and they end up meeting officials to expedite the process.
Civic body officials said most assistant town planning officials are given the added responsibilities of junior engineers, assistant engineers, assistant executive engineers and other zonal posts. “They visit the site and prepare a report that is signed by the town planning officer, deputy commissioner and corporation commissioner before handing the approval documents to the residents,” he said. “If officials are unavailable, the process gets delayed,” said an official.