Hubballi: Encroachers luck will run out on Friday the 13th. The Hubballi-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) will begin a crackdown against encroachments on footpaths and parking lots on February 13.
After a heated discussion that left civic officials red-faced at the general body meeting of the civic body on Saturday, mayor Shivu Hiremath ordered officials to prepare a list of such encroachers by February 10 and launch an operation to clear up the spaces three days later. "If any encroachment is found after the conclusion of the operation, officials of the town planning department and the zonal officers concerned will be held responsible for it," he clarified.
All corporators, irrespective of their party affiliations, found themselves on the same page over the issue of encroachments: That the problem is of civic officials' own making, which has now come back to bite them.
JD(S) corporator Rajanna Koravi pointed out that many people leave their vehicles parked by the road at night. "This is because many building, apartment and commercial complex owners have failed to reserve space for parking."
He cautioned that the drive to remove encroachments may not have a lasting effect. "For a few days, the vehicles will stay off the roads. But they will be back." He suggested that a heavy fine be imposed on such errant vehicle owners to rein in the menace.
Leader of opposition Yaseen Haveripeth alleged that the department issuing permissions to buildings has failed in its efforts to prevent encroachments.
Dasharath Wali of the Congress pointed out that lack of concrete action against erring officials has let the problem get out of hand.
BJP corporator Sanjayakumar Kapatakar alleged that civic officials have been taking bribes from encroachers to turn a blind eye to the menace. "The commissioner ignored a video clip I sent of group C staffer taking bribe from encroachers."
Responding to this, joint HDMC commissioner CW Shakeel Ahmad clarified that a proposal to suspend the staffer has been sent to the directorate of municipal administration. "We can suspend him only after receiving an order to do so."
Congress corporator Ganesh Tagargunti echoed Kapatakar's allegation, saying that on receiving complaints against encroachments from the public, civic officials demand a higher 'protection money' from encroachers.
BJP's Sudhir Saraf recommended that officials keep a tab on under-construction buildings, which are popular spots for illegal parking.
Congress corporator Raghunath Lakkannavar recalled that HDMC officials had claimed at the last meeting that they would put an end to illegal parking on Karwar Road within three days. "But even a month later, the vehicles are still there."
AR Desai, deputy commissioner (revenue), and revenue officer MB Sabarad were left flummoxed as they fielded this allegation. At first they said the parking space is on private land, but they later modified their explanation by saying that the lot falls on a disputed plot of land between two citizens. Sabarad said a notice has been issued to the parking lot owners to submit documents related to ownership of the land.
Bringing the heated discussion to a close, Hiremath ordered stringent action against violators.
Offical Shunted out:
Irked by allegations by corporators that HDMC officials and staff members are lazy and corrupt, mayor Shivu Hiremath director the commissioner to shunt Ashok Gadag, deputy director of town planning (DDTP), Dharwad, out. He hoped that the move will serve as a warning for all employees to pull up their socks. Congress corporator Ganesh Tagargunti demanded another DDTP, VN Teradal, be moved out as well for his "inefficiency". Teradal was let off with a warning from the mayor.
Congress corporators Raghunath Lakkannavar and Sudha Manikuntla alleged that environment officer Nayana KS refuses to attend calls or address grievances filed by corporators. Nayana, however, was not at the meeting to present her case.
In light of such allegations, Hiremath directed the commissioner and the joint commissioner to pay visits to different wards three days a week. "They should listen to the grievances of the public and review the works of HDMC personnel," he said.
Snap the water line:
Mayor Shivu Hiremath ordered that the water supply to residential buildings whose owners fail to pay property tax be disconnected. "If owners of commercial buildings won't pay tax, shut down such shops," he ordered.
(Inputs from TOI)
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