One would think grabbing government land is illegal. But it need not be so in Karnataka, where the state government has brought in a series of measures under its dubious Akrama-Sakrama scheme to regularise illegalities with regard to building constructions. The latest is the decision to extend the scheme to houses built on sites measuring 1,200 sq. ft. Earlier, it was applicable only to 600 sq. ft sites.
In one stroke, the government has brought lakhs of properties within the scheme. With less than a year to go for the Assembly polls, the intent seems clearly political. The government’s argument that it will benefit SC/STs and poor families can fool none. People with clout and private builders who have grabbed prime government lands will get a chance to legalise the acquisitions by paying a small penalty. The scheme also sends the signal that one can not only get away after grabbing a piece of government land but will also get to keep it if one waits long enough.
Akrama-Sakrama means illegal to legal, and the scheme came into force in 2015 after amendments were made to the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act. But the government’s plan to regularise constructions that violate building norms and unauthorised housing layouts under the scheme has been stayed by the Supreme Court. While the stay still stands, the government has come out with another plan to legalise what’s clearly illegal.
It is important to see that tribals living on forest fringes and landless families living on government lands are not evicted but the Akrama-Sakrama scheme is not aimed at those. The scope of the scheme has been expanding, and it won’t be surprising if it’s soon extended. Unauthorised constructions and violation of building laws are the bane of growing Indian cities. Instead of putting an end to the violations and punishing the violators, the governments and political parties that run them seem to be actively encouraging the practice for the sake of few votes.