The state government has dangled yet another carrot to the people and they sure would bite it. As is the wont of any populist government, the BJP government in the state is thinking loud on excluding rural areas (in the vicinity of towns) from the Town and Country Planning Act. The question however is who will really benefit from this?
The exemption, if it finally is approved, would no doubt please a lot of people as they would escape paying a lot of taxes and the change-of-land-use taxes. Common man aside, the decision would really please the real estate developers making a beeline to acquire farmland in the vicinity of Himachal’s towns to develop lucrative housing projects.
A view of Shimla (Pic:Varun Rattan Singh)
In the absence of the law unscrupulous and unplanned development and construction is a given, especially in the villages included in the master plans of the towns. As the pressure on urban areas grows and these areas eventually get merged in urban municipalities this haphazard development would then emerge as the biggest irritant for these very people who will inherit and inhabit these spaces. Isn’t this how areas such as Kusumpati and Totu in Shimla were tossed in and out of Town and Country Planning Act by successive governments for vote bank politics? Residents of these areas are today paying the cost with poor living conditions and poor civic amenities.
In effect the state is not only denying its people well laid out living spaces but also the pride of having planned urban centers. Our towns are thus doomed to be over grown slums.