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Bengaluru: Building plan approval goes online. But will it curb bribes?

From April 1, the building plan approval process (for construction projects in sites above 60x40 sqft) will go online. The Automatic Building Plan Approval System (ABPAS) project, which was long overdue, besides giving building plan approvals, will also issue commencement certificates and occupancy certificates online.

Applicants need to only click on the BPAS link on the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) website and follow the procedure to apply. Chandigarh, Gurgaon and many cities in Madhya Pradesh have already implemented ABPAS.

According to BBMP officials, the new system will, besides making the process simple, bring in greater transparency by avoiding human interaction and speed up the process. However, as in the case of its online property tax payment system, which the BBMP introduced years ago, the BPAS too may face initial glitches and shortcomings. An error-ridden software, officials missing deadlines, escaping the radar and pushing for manual interaction (for bribes) will be the likely hurdles. What if the application is not processed on time?

The application will get auto-locked and reach the next-level official for processing. The officer who has not processed at the previous level should justify the reason for not processing or face disciplinary action.

There is a proposal to introduce a trust-and-verify system which allows building owners to self-declare the building plan as per the bye-laws. They will have to upload the information to auto DCR software. Verification is done at a later stage and action taken if there is any violation. The state government is yet to notify this.

The system will bring in efficiency and transparency in issuing building plan approval, commencement certificate and occupancy certificate. Of course, there could be initial glitches in the process. We will fix the issues as and when they arise. The new system will avoid any sort of human interaction between the officials and the builder and hence avoid corruption says N Manjunath Prasad, BBMP Commissioner

It may ease the application process but will not curb building bye-law violations. Every building plan issued by the BBMP is clean as far as the plan approval documents are concerned. Violations happen relentlessly on the ground, which cannot be prevented in the existing system. Strict enforcement is the need of the hour says Naresh Narsimhan, Architect, and activist.

We have heard of building plan approval going online several times in past 3-4 years. In fact, an online system already exists through which medium and big builders have been submitting their applications. But due to tens of permissions and NoCs that are required for big projects, BBMP officials ensure that builders go to them personally to submit hard copies. That’s why I am skeptical says Girish Rao, Building consultant.

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