The recent demolition drive against illegal structures could spell trouble for many Bengaluru-based real estate developers, given the resolve to widen the crackdown beyond buyers. A government report in January this year had identified many companies, including some listed on stock exchanges, as responsible for encroachment of water bodies.
The strongest message has come from none other than Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah to take on all those responsible for the mess in India's "Silicon Valley."
"I have told the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) officials not to spare any builder or developer, howsoever influential or powerful, in demolishing their illegal structures on lakebeds or stormwater drains, as we don't want Bengaluru to turn into Chennai during heavy rains," Siddaramaiah told reporters in Bengaluru, reported IANS.
Bengaluru's (Bangalore) civic body — Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) — has already cracked the whip on officials who approved the structures, on orders from the chief minister.
In the first crackdown after the demolition drive began last week, 20 officials, including seven retired, have been identified; those in service (13 of them) have been suspended while action has been initiated against those retired. These officials allegedly allowed the structures to come up because of their nexus with developers.
The Bangalore Mirror reported that five of the officials belonged to the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and eight others, to the BBMP.
"The BBMP officials were held responsible for granting permission to take up construction (building sanction plan) and then issuing commencement certificate, and at a later stage, the occupancy certificate, after inspecting the spot and still failing to see the violations," Bangalore Mirror quoted a source in the Chief Minister's Office as saying.
In January, a panel (Joint Committee on Tank Encroachment in Bengaluru) headed by Karnataka Legislative Assembly Speaker K B Koliwad had submitted a detailed 355-page report listing the area encroached by various government and private bodies in Bengaluru.
Prominent developers such as Sobha, Prestige Estates, Brigade Enterprises, Adarsh Group, DS Max and Bagmane Tech Park were among those from the private sector named in the report, according to Deccan Chronicle.
"During our investigations it was revealed that several forged documents were fabricated within no time to aid these encroachments," Koliwad told reporters on Jan. 9, 2016.
The committee estimated the value of encroached at Rs. 1.50 lakh crore (approximately $25 billion).