Illegalities still rampant in Punjab industrial plots
Allottees are hanging on to vacant plots for years, in some cases up to 20 years, according to PSIEC
THE COLLAPSE of a factory owned by a political heavy-weight in Jalandhar should prove to be an eye-opener to the many ills in the 21 industrial estates, called Industrial Focal Points (IFPs), set up in each district by the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC).
The building collapsed due to the construction of an additional storey beyond the permissible limit. Since the illegal storey has been visible for years, the collapse has raised eyebrows about the suspected corruption in overlooking such violations.
Three parallel enquiries have been ordered by the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to look into the technical, criminal and administrative aspects, but the question remains of who will bell the cat of corruption. The role of PSIEC, ESIC, and departments dealing with fire, environment and pollution, power and labour are being looked into.
The PSIEC office is at a walking distance from the factory. It would be difficult to escape from the responsibility of inspection of the building, which has a height over the permissible limit. The covered area is also over the limit.
Under Clause VIII of the allotment, in case of any deviation from the zonal plan/building by-laws of the corporation, the offending portion of the building should be demolished under the orders of chief engineer/superintending engineer of PSIEC and demolishing charges incurred are recoverable from the allottee/transferee.
In fact, those who have political as well as bureaucratic links in Punjab can purchase an industrial plot and get a heavy premium on its resale – without ever setting up a unit. This is another malaise at the IFPs.
Under the rules, if construction has not been done on the plot for three years, a one-year extension can be obtained by paying a nominal fee. But this provision is observed more in the breach, paying the way for property dealers to keep selling and re-selling the plots.
Going by the record of the PSIEC, plot allottees are hanging on to vacant plots for years together. In some cases, they have not bothered to get construction done even 20 years later.
There is a provision of 1 percent of the land cost as extension fee. This is easy for plot-holders to pay, if they have paid Rs 11.84 lakh as cost of the plot and an additional Rs 1.50 lakh as transfer fee.
"There was neither any strict direction for non-completion of the construction within the stipulated period nor any monitoring system to check violation of the laws"
A Senior PSIEC Official
Plot No C81 located at Jalandhar Focal Point (industrial estate) is a case in point. It was allotted to Gursharan Manufacture Industry in the year 1992 and was transferred to one Shital Vij in 2007.
A zoning plan was submitted to PSIEC but there is no construction going on. Interestingly, Vij reportedly has 35 industrial plots in the same area but the report was not tabled with higher officials of the Industries Department. This is not an isolated case, several such instances can come out if an independent inquiry is carried.
A senior PSIEC official said that there was neither any strict direction for non-completion of the construction within the stipulated period nor any monitoring system to check violation of the building bylaws. If the PSIEC had repossessed plots which remained vacant, it could auction them at a neat profit. But officials of the Estate Branch seem to be hand-in-glove with property agents and plot-owners to allow profiteering.
Principal Secretary of the Industrie Department AR Talwar said that the construction of industries comes under the jurisdiction of the Punjab CM. “We are thinking of ensuring industry rules are followed strictly and some officials will be accountable,” he added.