THRISSUR: While all political parties including Congress, which is the major opposition, avoid a proper discussion of the controversial master plan of Thrissur corporation, Aranattukara Development Committee chairman and Left follower Robson Paul has lodged a writ petition in the High Court seeking to set aside the plan published in the state gazette on February 26, 2021.
Robson, whose wife Saramma Robson is also a councillor in the corporation, said, “I discussed the drawbacks of the plan with fellow party leaders personally and even urged them to listen to the complaints of the public. But no step was taken to understand the concerns of the public. Neither the opposition, nor the ruling Left took the initiative to discuss what actually the master plan was about and how it was going to affect the common man. Hence I had to take the issue to the court.”
As per a Thrissur corporation statement, the master plan was approved by the state government and published in the gazette. The draft plan was recognised by the state government on November 6, 2012, after discussions in the council, it said. The documents obtained by Robson through RTI queries clearly indicated that the corporation’s claims were not true. Though the draft master plan was sent for approval of the state government, it was rejected on December 23, 2013.
“The entire proceedings through which the master plan was approved were in violation of the existing norms,” pointed out Robson.
Norms for master plan
As per Section 36 (1) of the Kerala Town and Country Planning Act, 2016 which came into force with retrospective effect from September 23, 2013, the local body concerned may, by a resolution, prepare or adopt a master plan. Section 36 (2) says within two years of passing this resolution in the council, the local body should prepare a draft master plan or review the adopted master plan and forward the same to the state government.
The Act also urges the local body to publish the draft master plan, once approved, in two local newspapers and on its website. It is also mandatory for the LSG body to forward this draft plan to the District Planning Committee within 60 days. In addition, a special committee of experts should be formed by the local body to invite suggestions and complaints from the public based on which a report of necessary changes need to be prepared by the special committee. Once the special committee submits the report, the council should discuss it and modify the plan and submit the master plan as passed or adopted by Thrissur corporation, which is the local body here.
“In this case, Thrissur corporation violated all existing norms. No resolution was passed in the council to prepare or adopt the master plan. The draft plan was rejected by the state government. The so-called draft plan was not published in newspapers. Common people didn’t get a chance to raise their complaints and concerns regarding the master plan as nobody knew what was in it,” added Robson.
The law also instructs the local body to give a copy of the approved master plan to all councillors, but no one except chairpersons of standing committees received it.
“While the corporation wants to move forward with the master plan, there is already a Detailed Town Planning (DTP) Scheme in effect here as per the draft master plan of 2013. Many people’s plots of land have been frozen as per the old DTP. The proposed width of some roads is 25 metres and plots along such roads have been remaining useless for the owners though the roads have not been widened. If the new master plan comes, what will happen to those frozen land as per old DTP?” asked Robson.
In his petition, Robson pleaded the court to stay all further proceedings for preparation and sanctioning of the execution plan in pursuance of the master plan. The writ also sought a directive to the state government and Thrissur corporation to prepare a master plan abiding by the existing rules so that the common man would be able to be a part of the entire process.
Meanwhile, there have been allegations that the then Thrissur mayor and secretary signed the master plan after receiving the government approval as there were no dates written. The opposition has alleged that the LDF-led corporation’s agenda of approving the master plan without the council’s knowledge was to aid the real estate mafia.