The process of urbanisation has picked up in India over the last few decades, and one of the cities that has benefitted from this process -- and has also been bearing the brunt of it -- is Delhi. This is because rapid urbanisation comes with a new set of challenges that range from governance to infrastructure, housing and the environment. Urban planners, however, saw it coming years ago: In 1956, the Interim General Plan suggested that “serious consideration should be given for a planned decentralisation to outer areas and even outside the Delhi region”.
Finally in 1985, the National Capital Region Planning Board Act was passed with the concurrence of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The key rationale was to promote balanced development of the NCR, and to contain unplanned urban growth by channelising the flow and direction of economic development along more spatially-oriented paths. On Tuesday, the government added three new districts to the NCR: Muzzaffarnagar in UP, and Karnal and Jind in Haryana. With this the total area has swelled to a little more than 54,000 square km, making it the largest NCR in the world. The NCR now makes up for 1.6% of India’s land area, covering a total of 22 districts — 13 in Haryana, seven in UP and two in Rajasthan.
Though the residents of these three new districts may be happy with the inclusion, they shouldn’t have very high expectations. This may sound pessimistic but going by the experience of the existing cities in the NCR roster, this is warranted. The aims of the NCRPB have remained unfulfilled because the government has not been able to solve the problem of multiplicity of authorities and give clear cut development guidelines. Leave alone other laws, even the uniform and integrated transport service has not worked out. Lack of a uniform code has meant that there has been no uniform economic integration, with only Noida and Gurgaon moving ahead of others. But planned development has also not happened since the NCR Board does not have enough powers to direct a member state to execute plans.
The inclusions are political sops, which do not take into account the individual potential of the cities that are part of the NCR. For example, Muzaffarnagar MLA Pankaj Malik and the junior agriculture minister at the Centre, Sanjeev Baliyan, had been batting for the NCR tag for the city, possibly because it is a prestigious one. Cities are not inorganic beings: They flourish only when certain factors are available like infrastructure and skilled people. If we really need to change the face of these cities, much work has to go into it, not just giving them an entry into a hallowed club.