Delhi's master plan for 2021 gives relief to not only traders — for whom the threat of sealing is off — but also millions of others. And Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy says categorically that he is not "apologetic", notwithstanding allegations of vote bank politics.
Strongly defending the much discussed master plan for Delhi (MPD) that lays out the guidelines for the Indian capital over the next 14 years, the minister said: "I am not apologetic about this large-scale relief to the people. I can't ignore ground reality and the Indian democratic state cannot be so tyrannical as to demolish or close down or tamper with 90 per cent dwelling units."
The document, notified by Reddy on February 7, regularises 1,543 unauthorised colonies and also makes major concessions for commercial establishments in residential areas — the focal point of the sealing operations that led to several traders' strikes last year.
"Traders were not the only people agitated about the situation in Delhi. Residents have also been given relief. Many residents in walled city special enclaves, pre-1962 colonies and small colonies have been helped in much larger numbers than traders," Reddy said in an interview.
He said all the traders were not rich. "It is important to note that of the more than 600,000 shopkeepers (affected by the new master plan), only about 50,000 can be categorised as upper middle class. The other 500,000 and more are those who use their small houses as shops. These include people like the dhobi, the tailor or the cycle repairer... all come in this category."
The minister denied that the government's exercise of amending the master plan was aimed at circumventing the Supreme Court's directive to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to demolish or seal unauthorised premises.
"There is no basis for such criticism. This (the master plan) has been in the offing for long. If that were to be my motive I would have done this six months ago when people were on the streets against the sealing drive. In fact, the sealing drive continued without being halted by me or anyone."
Reddy also insisted that his government was not guided by impending elections to the MCD in amending the master plan.
"I can honestly say there was no vote bank politics in the MPD. We dealt with each group based on harmonious mix of ground realities and town planning norms. A master plan for 15 years is not prepared to win one MCD election. This was not the consideration at all."
According to the minister, his government had done more for the poor and slum-dwellers than for the affluent sections of society.
The government's latest steps to regularise 1,500 colonies, he said, had not only given protection but also titles to three million people living in the localities.