An open letter to High Court of Gujarat
It is great to see that you are in action over the traffic situation of our city. Resolving it is now an existential problem for the city, so I am excited by your positive action and tempted to submit my two bits for your kind consideration and action.
From the media reports, it appears that your lordship has zoomed-in on to the traffic rules enforcement angle through police. It is critical and also practical; so, as a citizen please accept my heartfelt thanks.
But, while you encourage police to enforce the law, I also want to draw your attention to the real culprits of the crime that city is suffering from and deliver a broader piece of justice for suffering citizens of Ahmedabad.
As we move to the new age of judicial interventions where Google can be fined 3,43,70,25,00,000 Rupees for earning profit through violation of natural justice, Indian judiciary also needs to strike at the root of macro-problems and identify the beneficiaries of systemic violation and make them pay.
It is easy to conclude that unruly civilians or unprofessional traffic management is causing traffic chaos; but the reality is, they are mere expression of the real problem, i.e. unauthorised construction by builders who literally made billions by violating construction by-laws.
Most builders of Ahmedabad have committed two crimes that the citizens are paying for by suffering from chaotic traffic ruining quality of life of millions.
Builders have violated Floor Space Index (FSI) rules to construct more than double area to earn obscene profit. As if this was not enough, they covered parking space on ground floor for earning even obscener profit by selling it as shops.
Please understand that FSI is the most critical regulator in urban planning. It controls the density of population in an area. By FSI violation, builders have burdened all infrastructure, including roads by double than what they are designed for. So, we now have double the vehicles on a road designed for half of them.
The even more damning evidence of criminal mind set to reap profits at the cost of the society is in the parking space violation. A lot of commercial areas are full of buildings where the most expensive part sold is the shop that is actually an unlawful conversion of an open parking space. This violation is a double edged sword as it leads to loss of parking space and increase of parking demand as shop attracts more traffic.
Reality is, unruly behaviour of public or apathy of police are not the cause but the effect of builders’ greed.
I plead your lordships to take serious cognisance of this underlying issue linked with traffic as it has actually allowed few individuals to amass enormous amount of ill-gotten wealth at the cost of the citizens. There is no doubt that builders have been aided by state machinery and political support, but it is abundantly clear that they are the main beneficiaries of this crime against society at large.
I request you to consider applying the polluters-pay principle to at least the builders who have constructed commercial buildings. Hard evidence is available in form of buildings so it is practically possible to identify the crime and criminals. If the state can manage to recover even a small part of the unlawfully generated wealth from builders, city can invest that amount in uplifting urban infrastructure and turn the city into a far more habitable place.
Though we may not do a Google in India, I sincerely hope that your lordship, in your effort of cleaning up the traffic mess, do strike at the very root of the problem.