A few days ago, an official with the Kochi Corporation was all set for recovery action against an unauthorised construction of an influential hotelier. The hotelier who was repeatedly asked to pay the fine, did not pay heed. When the task force braced up for action, the officer’s phone kept ringing.
“It’s from ‘higher places’. “If I take the call, it spells the end of the operation.” When the task force was about to commence the work, the hotelier’s manager rushed to the Corporation office to avert recovery action.
However, he paid only half the fine amount. Such instances are not rare at the Corporation, said the officer which throw light on a disturbing trend - unauthorised constructions, mostly by builders with clout. The civic body does not even have a tally on the unauthorised constructions in the city. In an RTI reply to ‘City Express’, the Corporation officials stated that its revenue squad came upon 224 unauthorised buildings over the last two years.
But the civic body had reportedly revealed earlier that it ranges from 3,000 to 15,000 for the same period. Of them, 150 were identified as mega structural violations.
The violations were mostly in the form of extensions to existing structures like adding more floors on original structures without obtaining the mandatory permission.
Though the authorities were tightlipped about naming violators, they admitted that they were closely connected to those in power. Sources with the revenue squad said, “When it comes to unauthorised construction, officers, from top to bottom, are pressurised against taking action.”
The delay in action causes huge loss to the exchequer by way of tax and fine evasion. With the opposition fuming against the inaction of the Corporation, focus is on two major buildings in the city - the Emerald Hotel at Vyttila and the Chennai Silks showroom on MG Road.
A vigilance enquiry is on to look into the alleged holding of files by Corporation officials, to help Chennai Silks allegedly abet tax evasion of `1.45 crore.
After a series of allegations, the councillors had unanimously demanded closure of the Emerald Hotel but the hotelier secured a stay from the court.
Much noise was made in each council meet on the illegal nexus between Corporation officials and counsels, who appear in court on the behalf of the civic body, but little has done to check such a nexus.
The Chennai Silk authorities declined to comment reasoning that the matter is sub judice. The Emerald Hotel authorities said they have cleared license-related procedures with the aid of a court order and cleared the process for regularisation.