Clueless on development

Lack of publicity and concern over prohibitive penalty by CMDA see very few takers for its amnesty scheme
The Chennai Metropolitan Area has undergone a sea change in construction activity
The Chennai Metropolitan Area has undergone a sea change in construction activity

Chennai

The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has received hardly 40 applications from building owners under section 113-c of the Tamil Nadu Town and Country Planning Act, 1972 (Amnesty scheme). The poor response is for the normalisation scheme announced with the aim of regularising violations in buildings constructed before July 1, 2007. 
According to a Government Order (GO) issued on June 22, 2017, CMDA would scrutinise buildings with a height of up to 17.25 metres under the category of special buildings, irrespective of the number of floors, and only such buildings will be eligible for regularisation. Considering the poor response, CMDA officials extended the grace period by three months, in December 2017.
The main reasons for the poor response, according to builders and those in the know, are that people owning individual houses in the Chennai Metropolitan Area (CMA) are apprehensive that if they opt for this scheme, officials may levy a huge penalty or ask for multiple certificates. Tellingly, a huge number of individual house owners is unaware of such a scheme. 
Dr R Kumar, former Deputy Planner of CMDA and currently Managing Director of Navin Housing and Properties Private Limited, points out that “After issuance of the GO, the court directed CMDA to stop issuing approvals for new layouts. However, it did not stop property owners and builders from applying for regularising buildings.” Another important reason is that owners have to pay the penalty even before their applications are processed online, he added.
Similarly, S Ramaprabhu, Honourable Secretary of Builder’s Association of India, Southern Centre, said “The CMDA has miserably failed to create awareness among the public. Around 1.5 lakh buildings have been constructed within the CMA; however, it has received hardly 35 applications, while the Directorate of Town and Country Planning (DTCP) obtained just five applications from building owners to regularise the buildings across the state.” 
Pointing out that there is a clear indication of lack of publicity on this scheme, Ramaprabhu further said, “If there are violations in the buildings, the CMDA slaps a huge amount on the owners as penalty. For instance, if the owners violate and construct a small stilt near the house, they should pay in accordance with the current guideline value of the land and this is impossible for the building owners.” 
BEST KEPT SECRET? 
Meanwhile, the public are unaware of the scheme. “Amnesty scheme? What is that? I have not heard about it till now. I wonder why the concerned officials have not passed on such information to the local officials, who in turn could have conveyed the same to us,” asks A Vimalanathan, a resident of Valasaravakkam. However, he added that he would apply for amnesty only after consulting builders, in order to be sure that he would not face any difficulty.
P Viswanathan, a resident of Chitlapakkam, which falls under CMA,is of the opinion that there a number of building owners who are unaware of the amnesty scheme. “However, even those who are aware may be unwilling to take the step, fearing imposition of a stiff fine or they may be afraid of being asked to run around producing various documents,” he added. When contacted, a senior official said, “We are aware of the issue and have informed the Housing and Urban Development department about the poor response. We will create awareness among the public, and we may even extend the time frame for owners of the buildings to apply under such scheme.”
BUILDING BLOCKS 
  • Area of CMA: 1,189 km2
  • No. of buildings in CMA: 1.5 lakh 
  • No. of applications received by CMDA: 35 to 40
  • No. of applications received by DTCP: 5
  • CMDA extended amnesty timing in December 2017 for three more months
  • Rs 2.5 cr Amount collected by CMDA from owners of buildings with violations 
  • CMDA may extend date further

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