Suffocating suburbs

Anything wrong with the picture below? Notice how snuggled the two adjoining houses are. What happened to the mandatory setbacks?

And see this picture as well. The house on the left has kept some space. But his neighbor has not!

Bangalore is dotted with examples like these. Setback norms have been thrown to winds. People just don’t realize how bad a look these violations give to the city. Most streets look like having two long row houses on each side. Houses sharing walls, eating few inches of footpath here and there (see this earlier post on encroachments) – many areas of our city have this suffocating feel now.

Situation isn’t as bad in older areas. Newer constructions that have cropped up recently in the high growth suburbs – unplanned and unchecked – most have this problem in abundance. Part of the problem is really small plot sizes. 30 x 40 and even smaller plots mean people want to construct over as much land as possible.

I live in a community where we all (rather we were all made to) follow the setback rules to the dot. It gives the place such a nice and open feel, you really have to come and experience it.


6 Responses

  1. Well the rules should be followed from the health perspective. However what you have mentioned reminds me of a yesteryear serial “Nukkad” which was one of the most popular. My father too had very humble beginnings but sometimes, when we hear his childhood tales, we can’t help wondeing whether he had far more fun in the kind of ambience that you have described above than the posh locality that we stay in now.

  2. Partly agree with you Hiren. But living in Nukkad like colonies and ‘real’ development does not go hand in hand. Some space, some air does not kill Nukkad like neighborhoods. But not following these small rules here and there is why have dirty and shameful cities today.

    I did not grow up in a cramped Puttenhalli like place. Having grown up in a SAIL township – rare towns that were well planned – I have seen that good and friendly middle-class ambience can be created in planned and airy communities as well.

  3. you have identified a cause – small sites, but what shows up in this seemingly slight aberration is a systematic and complete failure of the entire system-public-private industry-public servants-administrative oversight and the judiciary as a part of it.

    The public IS guilty of willful violation of rules. Maximizing utility of available land is not an excuse to avoid smart planning. Further, apart from bye-law violation, these people are also guilty of evading taxes. They are not paying taxes for the actual floor area that is built up. The tax collectors are not going after them and they are definitely not informing town planners about the violation, who even if informed are definitely not acting on it.

    The public servants are guilty of aiding and abetting this violation colluding with the mestri, contractor, architect coterie is also included.

    The basic issue is there is no real detterent to corruption of any sort.
    The public is NOT held accountable for trying to bribe an official. They might be threatened with demolition of the buildings. The public gets a stay order from the court. And ultimately after some more dirty tricks what happens is that the laws are bent and these structures will be regularized. Then they become pacca and what is really a violation of law of the land is now legal.

    So the case went to court right, and out of humanitarian concerns the violation is pardoned, but nobody asks-who was the concerned official under whose oversight all this happened in the first place. Nobody even directs the tax officials to revise their floor area records. That is the system has no crosscheck and connectivity.

    Even when caught by ,say, loka yukta. The impositions on people caught in corruption charges are minimal. They are suspended at the most, which is reall y a paid vacation. They get 90% of their salaries during the suspension period. That is the system cannot do anything about violators.

    Now to your original point:
    The govt now says they are going to build flats instead of small allotting small sites. In principle it is a good plan. It reduces urban sprawl and allows for optimal utilization of resources.

    But for it to be successful, they must do some serious, sincere analysis and come up with floor plans and square-footage that is really not only saleable but will actually make people want to live there. They are encroaching territory of the powerful builders who have a lot at stake in BDA’s failure. So for the sarkaari types the rewards are much higher for non-performance. It will be another happy hour for govt contractors, engineers and the whole rotten lot.

  4. Subba, thanks for the comments.

    I agree, public servants let these violations happen, because these violations will be future source of ‘revenue’ for them. I bet a lot of money would have changed hands in deciding how much violation is okay in deciding what buildings to demolish in Koramangala. (They eventually said 50% was okay)

    Unfortunately, I cant substantiate these, so can’t write about it.

    BTW, you hit the nail right on the head here – “powerful builders have a lot of stake in BDA’s failure”.

    I will try convert these comments into a post.

  5. here is an ABRACADABRA article from the star of mysore
    The link is generic, neverthless:
    Vol. 29 No. 152

    Corruption indeed is a universal phenomenon, to quote Mrs. Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of our country. Eradicating this evil is more difficult than eradicating Polio, the crippling disease. While polio criples the body, corruption criples the body politic. No doubt what cannot be cured must be endured and as such corruption too should be endured, specially in our country.
    Last week I was in Bangalore attending the conference of the Karnataka Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ). There, I happened to meet one Dr. K. Umeshwara. He, being a veterinery doctor brings out a periodical called Pashuvarthe. While discussing about the corruption in the Department of Information, Government of Karnataka, he mentioned of an experience.
    The bill was of Rs. 650. For nearly an year he had tried to collect it in vain. Finally, the cheque was ready but the officer told him that it would be given for a consideration. For Rs. 650 cheque if one were to pay a bribe, imagine how deep rooted this evil is. Dr. Umeshwar was livid with anger. He met the Director of the Department, only to be told ‘I am helpless’. But, all the same, the cheque was given to him. Dr. Umeshwar held it before the Director and tore it into pieces saying it was not worth the trouble he had taken and the humiliation he had suffered.
    Well, Mysooru Mithra, our sister publication, also had suffered this humiliation, so much so it had to approach the Lok Ayukta for relief that was partly granted.
    Last Tuesday, I was reading a Kannada newspaper carrying a news from H.D. Kote about the Revenue Department illegally selling two acres of land belonging to the town Government Model Higher Primary Boys’ School. This was disclosed at a press conference by Narasimhamurthy, Member of the School Development and Management Committee (SDMC). It seems this two-acre plot of land was donated to the school in 1957 by one H.K. Ramashetty of Yerahalli Kavalu. The gift deed and the registration records pertaining to this donation were all available.
    However, the land was left vacant by the school authorities. The illegal occupation of the land came to the knowledge of the SDMC about four days back when they noticed fencing on this property. The fencing was done overnight by the adjacent land owner one D. Surendra.
    Immediately further fencing was stopped and the documents were examined at the Tahasildar’s office by the school authorities. It was found that as long back as 2001, during the period of one Tahasildar Subba, the records were changed. But the documents showed that till 2001, according to the computer Pahani, this two-acre plot was registered in the name of the school. It was only after 2001 that the name of the school disappeared from the Record of Rights. In the record where there was the name of the school, appeared a circle marked in red ink and according to an endorsement, the property was transferred to D. Surendra as per the direction of the Tahasildar. However, there was no registered document in this regard.
    This is how the Tahasildar’s office plays mischief to profit from this kind of tampering of Record of Rights. There are two ways they could make money.
    1) The victim pays bribe and gets the Record of Rights corrected, though the so-called error or mistake or omission was deliberate.
    2) The beneficiary of this mischief bribes the Tahasildar and other officials down the line.
    I am told the bribe paid to correct the ‘error’ in the Record of Rights is known as “office fee” in the jargon of the corrupt. This is happening in all the Revenue Offices (Tahasildar’s Office) in all the districts, exceptions apart. We have not found a Minister who could end this menace. As for the IAS officers this is too trivial a matter to waste their time on.
    Fortunately, now we have the Karnataka Right to Information Act 2000 (RTI). Recently, while in Bangalore, I came across a similar case mentio- ned above with regard to my friend’s property in Bangalore South taluk.
    He had purchased a property in the year 1994. But in the beginning of this month he found that there was no entry of his name in the Records of Rights for the period 2005 and 2006 (computerised Record of Rights).
    When he approached the office, the tone of the response was sinister — the place was stinking of corruption. He went to a lawyer who, after hearing his problem, blurted a guffaw: “Don’t waste your time going to the court, give me Rs. 25,000. I will see your name is back in the Record of Rights.” My friend thought even the Tahasildar would have been satisfied with Rs. 5,000 or Rs. 10,000, while the lawyer seemed too expensive for him. My friend then went to another lawyer with a human face. This second lawyer said he would draft a notice for my friend to send it to the special Tahasildar of Bangalore South Taluk and took a small fee for his service.
    For the benefit of our readers, who too might be having properties like this in far away places and are in similar danger, I give the text of the notice:
    Re: Application U/s. 4 of the Karnataka Right to Information Act, 2000.
    We are herewith calling upon you to give the following information so as to prosecute you and your office for committing acts of mischief or acts of deceiving us in respect of the Mutation and Record of Rights which was standing in our names in pursuance of the Registered Sale Deed dated 18.11.1994 and the entries pertaining to the land described in the Schedule referred in the Mutation Register Extracts for the period commencing from 1994 till 2005-2006 which has not been shown now as an entry in the Record of Rights for the period 2005-06 (computerised Record of Rights).
    You are required to effect transfer of the Mutation and Record of Rights accordingly and continuously for the period 2005-06 and 2006-07 which did not reflect.
    Your office, on a request and representation made, had stated that office expenses had not been paid to the concerned officer and therefore, our names were deleted.
    Whether there is any Rule, Law or Procedure contemplating receiving office expenses for the purposes of effecting such entry. If such a rule, Law or Procedure is available, kindly furnish such Rule, Law or Procedure, for demanding office expenses.
    In the event of any Rule, Law or Procedure that is available, we shall necessarily make payment of the expenses. However, to the best of our knowledge no such Rule, Law or Procedure is available. You are, therefore, required to furnish the information within 15 days hereof and you are also required to effect our names in the Record or Rights (computerised) and also in the Mutation as it stood continuously from the date of purchase of the property, failing which prosecution shall be initiated by us by publicising your acts of mishcief and procedures which have been done in depriving of our right, title, interest and possession in respect of the Schedule property.
    For the purposes of furnishing the ncessary information sought for, the required fee as prescribed, shall be paid upon your furnishing demand for the fee.
    The purpose for which the information sought, is for filing an appeal or a writ petition before the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka, for rectification of the Record of Rights and Mutation by effecting necessary directions to you.
    All that piece and parcel of agricultural dry land bearing Sy. No.,etc,.”
    Tailpiece: In Karnataka say yes to corruption and come out of government office smiling.

  6. This rant is very interesting to someone from San Francisco, California, US, where most of the city has blocks and blocks of homes without any gaps in between. Search for photos of San Francisco, and you will see.

    (I came upon your website as I was researching the distance between Shahpur and Bangalore.)

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