Owners want permit for repair of quake hit houses in Batamaloo

Greater Kashmir

SMC says it can’t be granted because of Master Plan restrictions

Srinagar:  Abdul Rashid Khan’s house developed big cracks when the killer earthquake hit two Kashmirs on October 8, 2005. Since then his family is living literally on razor’s edge, as the authorities have denied them permission to repair the three-storey house.
 Abdul Rashid Khan’s fears the house can collapse anytime. He says, “The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is not concerned about the lives of my family.”
 The house shakes each time a vehicle zooms past Khan’s house, and even his neighbours and friends are hesitant to enter it, but for Khan’s family there is no other option.
 Khan said he has inherited the house from his father, and the house is nearly a century old. After it developed cracks Khan sought relief from the government as a quake victim. But running pillar to post for this old man bore no fruits.
 “Not to speak of inspecting my house, the officials didn’t even listen to my cries,” complains Khan, a retired official himself.
 Fed up of trying to get the relief, Khan planned to repair the house out of his own hard-earned resources. But yet again his troubles didn’t end. “To my disappointment, despite requests, the SMC denied me permission for the renovation.”
 The Khan family is not the lone sufferer. Some other nearby old houses in the Batmaloo Bazaar locality face the same problem.
 The complainants accuse SMC of being selective in providing building permissions to residents.
 “Look at the cracks in our house and then see the newly constructed buildings in the neighborhood. Isn’t it discrimination?” asked a resident while pointing towards some apparently new constructions in the locality.
 As for the Khans, following repeated failures they have given up the hope.
 “We may someday die in the house collapse. But we are helpless for we don’t have any access to the corridors of power nor we have money to grease someone’s palms,” says Khan as his house rattles with the movement of a vehicle outside.
 Commenting over the issue SMC officials said “requisite permission can’t be granted because the area is governed by master-plan restrictions.”
 “Cracks in a handful of houses are not a big issue as the residents portray,” an official pleading anonymity said.