Agro-farms fiasco: Influential people get a ‘holy break’

Civic agency delays action against violators of the farm-scheme who had asked for respite during Ramazan.


Azam Khan August 04, 2011

ISLAMABAD:


The month of blessings has brought respite for the influential people accused of building mansions and private offices at the land earmarked for farming.


The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has “silently dropped its operation against these people”, who violated the terms and conditions in the much-debated agro-farms scheme, official sources said.

The lawyer of the civic agency submitted before a three member bench of the Supreme Court last week that CDA would take legal action against the violators after completion of the deadline of show cause notices. Another official said that this would buy more time to the owners of these farms.

(Read: Agro-farming schemes: City elites persevere in their violations of CDA bylaws)

CDA Planning Directorate Director-General Ghulam Sarwar Sindhu defended the civic agency by saying that “legal action” is a continuous process and in the next step CDA has decided to take action against those who exceeded their agro-farms covered area.

Moreover, CDA Building Control Section Deputy Director Marwat Shah said that legal action would be initiated against the violators after Ramazan. Responding to a question, he said that around 26 people had approached them asking for “relief” during Ramazan.

Besides, 18 serving and retired armed forces officials, politicians, members of the legal fraternity and journalists are among others who had violated the ownership clauses of the CDA’s agro farms.

As per the CDA bylaws for agro-farming schemes, at least 80% of the allotted land has to be brought under cultivation. The entire project has to be brought in full production within two years and the output, produce of the land, has to be sold at reduced rates in CDA Sasta Bazaars.

The bylaws state that in case of breach of terms -- using the area for purposes other than poultry and vegetable farming -- CDA can cancel the agreement and take possession of the building without any liability to pay compensation.

In some instances the agro-farm owners have encroached upon the nearby land which is in addition to their allotted plot. Others have violated the 80% cultivation rule, where more than 20% of the land has been used for construction or other purposes leaving less land available for farming. The latter is called “excess in covered” area by the civic agency.

The inspection team report submitted before Supreme Court identified 20 agro-farms of poultry and vegetable (P&V) out of 131, where there was excess in covered area in scheme-2 Chak Shehzad.

Out of 53, one has exceeded in the covered area size in Sihana extension scheme, while three such agro-farms have been identified in dairy farming and poultry and vegetable scheme no 3, Kahuta Road. Three such plots have been identified in Poultry and Vegetable Scheme-4 Murree Road.

All in all, a total of 54 out 505 farms are violating the authorised “covered area” criteria of the agro farms. Moreover, regarding the people who have been encroaching “extra” land, a senior official from Building Control Directorate of CDA told The Express Tribune, “The owners of these agro farms were sent notices earlier by CDA to give away the encroached land.”

Earlier, the issue was taken up in a suo motu by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry a few years ago, basing the action on the media reports against the misuse of agro-farms by “influential individuals”. The chief justice had directed the CDA chairperson to form a commission to investigate the issue and submit a report.

The commission surveyed 505 agro-farms in different localities of the capital, including Tarlai Kalan, Chak Shahzad, Sehana (extension) Poultry & Vegetables Scheme Murree Road, Orchard Scheme H-9 and Nursery Scheme Park Road near Chak Shahzad.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.

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