MUMBAI: Revenue minister Narayan Rane on Tuesday categorically refused to direct the collectors of Nagpur and Pune to allow gram panchayats to issue building permits. He, however, promised to give limited powers to panchayats in this regard to avoid inconvenience to poor villagers.
The collectors of the two districts had sent communications to sub-divisional officers and zilla parishad CEOs informing them of the provisions of Section 18 of Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning (MRTP) Act, 1966. As per Section 18 of MRTP Act no construction can be undertaken in areas other than municipal corporations and municipal councils without the permission of the district collector's office. The sarpanchs' who had been issuing building permits for years were suddenly deprived of this power.
MLAs had demanded amendment to this rule as villagers living far away from the district headquarters were having a tough time obtaining building permits. Most of them demanded that Section 18 of the MRTP Act should be applicable only within five or 10 km of municipal limits.
Some legislators, including leader of the opposition, Eknath Khadse and others, charged Rane with infringing on the rights of gram panchayats and violating the spirit of the 73rd amendment. The minister, in his reply, stated that neither the state government nor the district collectors of Nagpur and Pune had enacted a new law. "We are merely implementing a law that already existed." The minister, however, said that he was aware of the difficulties faced by villagers living far away from district headquarters in obtaining building permits from collector offices. "The government will soon issue a notification allowing gram panchayats to issue building permits for small villages. However, these should not be multi-storied buildings and the FSI should be 0.4. We will define the house in detail in the notification. All the parties will be consulted before issuing the notification."
Rane said that gram panchayats had been found misusing the power granted to them. "In gram panchayat areas the maximum permitted floor to space index (FSI) is 0.4 but in many cases the panchayats had sanctioned an FSI of 8. Such violations were found 20 to 25 km from the Pune Municipal Corporation limits. The collectors had no choice but to take away the powers of the panchayats. A public interest litigation had been filed in the Nagpur bench of the high court seeking action against illegal sanctions granted by gram panchayats."
A large number of illegal constructions have been found in Besa-Beltarodi village adjoining Nagpur. The case is being investigated by the Nagpur district collector, Rane said.
The minister further said that, as per the 73rd amendment the government was to hand over 29 tasks to gram panchayats. "So far only 11 tasks have been handed over. There is no mention of powers to sanction building plans in this list."
Replying to a query by Devendra Fadnavis, Rane said that the Pune collector had submitted a list mentioning the number of additional personnel required for the extra task. "I had held discussions with the urban development department and all the posts have been sanctioned."