MLA Balbir Singh Verma encroachment/illegal construction case: Govt.’s wrath reserved for common people, small farmers, laborers only
SHIMLA- MLA Balbir Singh Verma’s illegal construction of a ramp on the name of public path made on encroached land had made news in a daily last month. The idea was to connect his under-construction hotel in Lakker Baazar to the main road, but it sadly caught attention of the public and media, and the ‘VIP violator’ was forced to demolish it.
Once again, nexus between VIP encroachers and government departments has appeared. In this case, Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department (HPPWD), Town and Country Planning (TCP) and Shimla Municipal Corporation open heartedly supported Balbir Singh Verma, independent MLA from Chopal, in building a public path to connect the main Lakker Bazaar road to his under-construction hotel without seeking permission at all. The work was vigorously under progress for past couple of weeks until the issue was raised by a Hindi daily ‘Jagran’ on 28 April.
The HPPWD and Shimla MC woke up only after the news was published. When asked to produce permission for the alleged illegal public path in passed building map, the department informed that it never received any application regarding the same.
The hotel, according to Jagran, is in sinking zone. The permission for construction of hotel was obtained in 2010 during BJP government.
Let us remind you that MLA Balbir was one of the 34 crorepatis who fought 2012 HP assembly elections. He had shown assets worth Rs. 34 crore in his manifesto. Currently, that wealth might have multiplied many times. So, he is rich and he is a politician, an elected MLA who is enjoying perks of power like majority of elected MLAs do.
According to Jagran, SMC and HPPWD staff often visited the area around Balbir’s hotel but both kept their eyes and mouth shut.
But when the issue was raised by the daily, the SMC directed a team lead by Assistant Commissioner Prashant Sirkek to visit the spot. Taking notice of the situation, SMC put a stay on construction work immediately.
The HPPWD S.D.O Ravi Bhatti also visited the spot and asked the owner to provide passed building map. However, the department couldn’t find any map. In a statement, Bhatti confirmed that the department did not receive any request for constructing mentioned public path.
Despite confirmation, no department dared to demolish the path, and instead tried to kill time by passing notice to each other to delay action. SMC was even considering permitting construction of public path if the MLA requests for one in written application. But regular follow up on the issue by the daily eventually forced the MLA to demolish the illegal structure.
Literally, there is so much scope for VIPs even in offenses which deserve stern action from government.
What about the common men?
A few months ago, HPPWD had demolished illegal structures including residential ones constructed on encroached public land in Shimla city. It was done strictly with no mercy for violators, and even minute extensions of steps or canopy were met with strictly.
Similarly, the Forest Department axed thousands of full grown, fruit laden apple trees on encroached forest land, but again, the Govt. started with small growers (1-3 Bigha) instead of starting with big fish including politicians who have thousands of acres land encroached.
The labores in Kinnuar protesting for their pending wages and deprivation of laborer rights are being oppressed for last two years to facilitate exploitation of own people by a private hydropower company. According to CAG report, HP government not only gave undue benefits worth Rs 209.28 crore to Jaypee power company, which owned the 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo hydel project in Kinnaur district, but also entertained its violations.
So, the ground reality of our democratic state is clear – laws are meant for common people. Case of Balbir Singh Verma’s under-construction hotel in Shimla city is an apt demonstration of how flexible our law is toward VIPs.
Although, it’s being demolished after the news caught attention of public, Balbir Singh Verma said in a statement that he had permission for the construction of mentioned public path and that he would never go against laws. If he had permission for it, then why it’s being demolished? What kind of joke is it with public, with public?