Amid an anti-encroachment campaign by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), several landowners who have now been branded encroachers, including IT giant Wipro, have protested, arguing that their building plans have been approved by the city’s civic body, which after many years suddenly appeared claiming that buildings were encroaching on storm sewers (SWD). Many landlords not only have approved plans, but also Certificates of Occupancy (COs).

Sanctioned plans and OCs are documents that planning officials are only required to release after a thorough spot inspection of the site for violations of building regulations, encroachments, and other violations.

The fact that JCBs are now in the buildings, whose owners all have these certificates, testifies that they were issued without proper inspection.

Civic activists allege a systemic breakdown of urban planning and its regulation is at the heart of this mess. Previous studies have also indicated lax implementation of master plans drawn up by the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA).

“If authorities like the BBMP and BDA had been correct and diligent in their planning and in granting their approvals, such flooding would not have happened,” said V. Ramprasad, a lake conservation campaigner.

“There is systematic corruption and mismanagement in town planning, where officials give approvals to builders, who have encroached on SWDs and lakes, without going through spot checks,” says Srinivas Alavilli, head of the civic participation at the Janaagraha Center for Citizenship and Democracy.

Public servants must be held accountable

There was a clamor to hold those responsible, who gave the authorization for these projects, accountable.

“What happens to those who had approved these lands for construction and what action has been taken so far against officials who issue approvals after taking money?” said Mr. Alavilli.

In 2016, in a similar encroachment permit campaign, the Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force booked FIRs against 20 officials, including retirees, from the BBMP and BDA for permitting buildings on SWDs . However, the cases went nowhere and no one responsible was convicted, sources said.

Wipro and Puravankara say they respect the law

Days after the BBMP mentioned that Wipro encroached on an SWD, the company said its campus in Doddakannelli was in line with the sanctioned plan. The company said, “Wipro abides by the laws of each jurisdiction where it does business and adheres to the highest standards of integrity. The Wipro campus in Doddakannelli is in line with the sanctioned plan. We have not received any notification from BBMP”.

A day after BBMP Chief Civic Commissioner Tushar Giri Nath alleged that along with Bagmane Tech Park, Purva Parkridge of Puravankara Limited had encroached on an SWD, Abhishek Kapoor, CEO of Puravankara Limited, said in a statement: “Nothing illegal was done during the construction of Purva Parkridge as claimed by Bagmane Group. The project was executed in accordance with the sanctioned plan, approved by the BDA in accordance with the overall development plan”.

Demolition campaign in 29 locations

On the fourth day of the clearance campaign, the BBMP removed structures from 29 locations in Mahadevapura, Yelahanka, Bomanahalli and Dasarahalli areas.

According to BBMP officials, they have also launched an investigation at Vagdevi Layout, Munnekollal, Kasavanahalli Village, ABK Village, Prestage Technology Park, Wipro, Sunny Brooks in Doddakannelli, Belathur Village, Sadaramangala, Bollineni Silas Apartment and Sai Garden Development. “After we complete the investigation, we will begin issuing a notice to these properties,” officials added.