Ease of Doing Construction
Measures to reform and reinvent grant of building permissions by urban local bodies have largely followed what is called a single window approach in which all documents are submitted to a single designated window (person, agency). The window, in turn, obtains all the permission from several agencies and gives the construction permission. The variants are compensatory penalty for delays (e.g. AP, MP), complete online submission (e.g. Pune), reduce the number of departments giving permission (e.g model byelaws), making the submissions simple and hassle free, charging more for giving permissions within a shorter time (e.g. green channel of UDAs) and deemed permission if not given in a certain timeline.
However, all these are based on the paradigm that verification has to be done before and is based on the principle of ‘verify, then trust’. Suppose we invert the equation to ‘trust, then verify’ and in the new paradigm the permission is given and inspection done later. Here, applicants apply completely online and the documents are machine verified. After the verification by the machine, the applicants is informed about the payments to be made and once the payments are made, the building permission is issued immediately. The preparation work to be done is that all details of the approved layout, etc are available fro comparison to be made by the machine. In this connection the recent initiative by the State of AP is an instance.
A major concern is some unscrupulous elements misusing the trust. There are two ways of getting over this concern. First, by putting the building plan submitted by the applicant in the public domain and, second, ensuring that site inspection is done within a set timeline, say, 15 days by the building inspectors. The inspection notes of the building inspector should also be placed in the public domain with the building plan. This is called partial disintermediation and even better is complete disintermediation in which even the inspection is given to an outside agency. In Bhubaneswar end-to-end processing of building applications has been given to a private agency. Therefore, the best way is to combine the processes followed by AP and Bhubaneswar.
The key difference here is that the process has been flipped. Earlier in all processes some sort of prior inspection by town planners was required giving them room to design novel forms of rent-seeking. In the new way the process is flipped – building permissions are given without any human intervention followed by inspections and field visits. Post-approval inspections with the building plans in the public domain and the inspections will lead to the fulfilment of the idea of Minimum Government, Maximum Governance. In plural cultures, triggers have to be identified in Public Programs and a virtuous cycle generated. Constant monitoring, identifying the retarding signals and quickly taking corrective measures are likely to lead to virtuous cycles continuing for a long time. In this way small changes have the potential to bring about big positive effects, especially in the long run.
Additional Secretary(Smart Cities),
Ministry of Urban Development
Disclaimer – All views are personal