The Bold Voice of J&K

Mushrooming commercial spaces

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Satwant Singh Rissam

In last three decades, Jammu has turned into a big city with its expanded periphery which stretched very rapidly during this period. This expansion is believed to have been because of rise in number of new residential colonies in Jammu. At the moment, the boundaries of city appear to have expanded up to ten kilometres in all four directions. These new residential areas are reflection of urbanisation as well as some unplanned growth in areas which were earlier the suburb area of Jammu. Earlier, for the people, Jammu city was considered to be an area which lay only on one side of River Tawi, which is now known as old city. Across the Tawi River was the area which in real sense was a small jungle as some people in those days uses to go there even for hunting. Such small was the periphery of Jammu city, that people in those times uses to even cross Tawi River in a small ferryboat which took them from one side to other. Strangely, the so called ‘Posh-Colonies’ like Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, Nanak Nagar, Channi Himmat etc never existed at those times. But these areas grew slowly as people started inhabitating in these areas somewhere in late 1970’s onwards.
Firstly, some part of Jammu city has expanded because of process of urbanisation, as middle class and lower middle class people migrated from rural areas. They came to city with a hope to get running water, electricity, educational institutions, medical facilities as well as employment opportunities which city provided to these rural migrants. But most of these migrants could only afford residential lands on the outer circle of city as the land was very cheap in comparison to areas like Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, Nanak Nagar, Channi Himmat etc. Second, but worrying reason for expansion of Jammu is that people who have been residing in these ‘Posh-Colonies’ are now moving to new outer areas as a bug seems to have struck residents of these areas. This bug has developed a new tendency in residents of these colonies because of which they are converting their residential houses to commercial establishments. Lavish shops with flashy and shiny interiors are witness to mushrooming of commercial spaces in these residential areas. The shine of these shops doesn’t reach the eyes of concerned departments as they seem to have closed eyes on this. Most of such conversions are said to have been done by violating Master Plan in Jammu. Incidentally, this all appears to have been committed in connivance with the officials of the various enforcement agencies. However, with modernisation and money playing an important role in life of today’s human this commercial tendency is witnessed even in outskirts of Jammu. But the commercialisation activity done in rural and far flung areas have different group of actors who are making this all possible. In such areas, it is all because of a nexus between the land mafia and concerned officers that illegal constructions are going on rapidly. This all shows presence of a pure agenda to convert residential colonies into commercial establishments.
This trend in overall has added even to prevailing problems by causing adverse impact on Jammu in respect of the basic services like water, transportation and electricity. There is visibly a large change in demand and supply of these services as supply is as per residential area but demand is as per commercial area. Such is the intensity of this rapid commercialisation of residential areas that even internal and narrow lanes in these residential areas have turned into small shopping bazaars. Adding to it, is new problem of traffic jams, as people park their vehicles on all these internal roads which often lead to complete chaos and blockage in these areas especially during festival season. Various efforts by government are said to exist but only within office files as nothing effective yet appears on the ground which can bear some fruit. Many reports were prepared in past to identify all illegal commercial conversions in order to take action but nothing has happened after that as businesses prosper in these illegally converted establishments. According to many people, MLAs and prominent influential people residing in these areas have played a key role in growth of such commercial activities. Enforcement wings exist in all agencies like Jammu Municipal Corporation, Jammu Development Authority, Housing Board etc. but a kind of game goes on in between these agencies wherein they keep shifting the blame from one to other.
Time has come when we need to think, where we are heading because of this whole vicious cycle. There are several examples where violations have happened and some matters even went to Courts and after Courts action closure of those establishments became possible. More importantly there are some glaring examples where people in the corridors of power were involved in violations and are entangled in litigation process going against them in Courts. But we want action should be taken in accordance with the law against the officials responsible for facilitating the glaring violations of the Master Plan. It is not something which happened overnight but yes a decade has passed since this all started.

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