Graveyard of files: ‘Estate office needs major overhaul’

Even as the Chandigarh Administration says that digitisation is the only way to check corruption, residents, architects and experts suggest ways to check it.

ONLY DIGITISATION of files won’t help rein in corruption in the estate office. A major overhaul is required with scores of reforms to ensure that common man is not harassed and made to go around in circles by the staff there.

Even as UT Administration says that digitisation is the only way to check corruption, residents, architects and experts suggest ways to check it.

Weekly or fortnightly public camp by senior official

A weekly camp by senior officers be held to review and help in preventing harassment to public. The camp be chaired by a senior officer. Objections raised by lower officials in the building branch that aren’t justified be taken up in the camp. Architects stated that the frequency in meeting public and attending to their grievances can help plug in all loopholes.

Random calls by deputy commissioner to applicants

Random calls by deputy commissioner to applicants can help give top brass a true picture of what happens in the estate department and how people are made to go around in circles. One surprise visit every month can help in not just detecting holes in the system but also put pressure on the staff to yield results. Architects suggested that the will to root out unusual delay is all that is required.

Merger of Chandigarh Housing Board and Estate office

A few years ago, there were suggestions to merge Chandigarh Housing Board and estate office due to less load of work with the housing board. However, sources said due to certain interests within the estate department, the move was opposed and shelved. Housing board has 11 sub-divisional officers and 24 junior engineers while estate office has two SDO buildings and four JEs. Merger will lead to more strength of staff and accordingly division of work. Additional charges to officers sitting idle and drawing almost similar salary can be given additional charges.

More Assistant Estate officers (AEO) in Chandigarh

It was suggested that instead of having just one AEO having all the power, there should be at least three AEOs on the pattern of Punjab. Different AEOs for different zones or divisions will help bifurcate the work of all properties in Chandigarh and bifurcation of sole power too. At present, issues of all properties, be it commercial or residential, are being dealt with by one AEO.

Regular rotation of staff

There is staff that is sitting for years in the estate office. It was suggested that regular rotation from the public dealing counters can help in having any monopoly or having vested interests. Sources said there were certain clerks and officials who were there for decades, then were shifted for a year and were back on the same position in the same office after a short stint.

Fixing responsibility of officer

Responsibility of SDO or JE concerned should be fixed frequently for not acting on cases or raising objections that are not justified. A mere formality should not be done by issuing show cause notices.

In the past year, how frequently has action been taken against officials for sitting on files

Even as there are files where staff is sitting even for 10 years, in the past year only one employee has been chargesheeted, that too not for this reason.

Six showcause notices, around 20 explanations and one chargesheet has been issued. When asked what were the reasons of these showcause notices or explanations or chargesheet, Assistant Estate Officer Manish Lohan said that they were either on not being able to remove encroachment or staying absent without intimation or objections raised on applications. There was nothing for sitting on files for years or making people make innumerable visits for simple objections.

Asked when he last inspected the SDO building office, Lohan said “last week”.

Rulebook violated

The Right to Service Act in Chandigarh was notified on October 8, 2020. It was stated that now public service can be availed by residents in a time-bound manner.

Under Right to Service Act, a total of 486 services provided by 28 departments of the Chandigarh Administration have been notified on October 8, 2020, for getting public services in a time-bound manner.

“Expect Chandigarh RTS Commission to take suo-motu cognizance to some of the cases as published in media from time to time as empowered under section 17(1)(b) of the Act, so that the system of delivery of public service is further improved. Also, steps should be taken up to make RTS appeals mechanism paperless. On finding any lapse, the Commission can impose a penalty upto Rs 10,000 per case on the erring official. The Commission is also empowered to provide compensation to an aggrieved service seeker and they should be really active in this,” Vinod Vashisht, convener, CFORWO observed.

Important documents required by property owners from estate office, and deadline to procure them

Grant of Occupation Certificate upto 2 Kanal (Residential, Institutional and Commercial buildings)— 45 days

Grant of Occupation Certificate above 2 Kanal (Residential, industrial & institutional Buildings) Petrol pumps approved by PAC(U) Committee— 60 days

Verification of fresh and revised building plans (under self certification)— 30 days

Sanction of fresh and revised building plans for lnstitutional building, Commercial building, petrol pumps and residential building above 2 Kanal as approved bY PAC (U)— 45 days

Change of ownership /lease-hold rights on the basis of Sale deed/Gift deed/ transfer of lease rights (uncontested)——- 30 DAYS

Issuance of No Dues Certificate (NDC) after depositing the dues—-15 days

Execution of lease deed/conveyance deed after issuance of allotment letter —30 days

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