The court-ordered sealing and demolition drive has put all development related issues in Delhi on the backburner. The violence in Seelampur, the six-day bandh by traders and the requisitioning of paramilitary forces to carry out sealing operations, conjured up images of a city under siege.
A multi-pronged strategy combined with administrative acuity is what helped to tide over the situation, says Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy.
“Delhi has historically been a city of vyaparis and karamcharis and the closure of the 45,000 shops would have affected the livelihood of 9 lakh people. Giving relief to the people without offending the courts (who insisted on sealing and demolitions without fully appreciating the urban issues in all its dimensions), was a fine balancing act,” the minister says.
The veteran Parliamentarian looks back on the past ten months as one of the toughest periods in Delhi’s urban history, the likes of which has not been witnessed in any other city.
He is reasonably satisfied with his role as an administrator in the face of the court’s constant ire.
“There was no question of buckling under pressure as I am answerable to the people of Delhi. I could not have let down the people and that is what gave me courage to state in Parliament that if need be, the law will be changed. Further courts can only interpret the law,” Reddy says.
He adds that he has been working relentlessly since February to sort out the problem.
First, the five-member committee headed by former Commerce Secretary and Lt.Governor of Delhi, Tejendra Khanna was set up to recommend practical solutions to Delhi’s urban problems.
Then in May, a one-year moratorium on sealing and demolition was brought into effect by promulgating a special law. Subsequently two notifications were brought out in September, to declare roads and street stretches as commercial and mixed land use areas. For once, the minister who is known for being savvy with words let action speak for itself.
With the Supreme Court finally relenting and giving time till January 31 to all traders to file their affidavits, the government is using this period to bring out the new master plan for the city—MPD 2021. “It will not be a perfect Master Plan since the time period is too short, but then there will be critical and intensive monitoring of the plan every five years for making necessary corrections,” the minister says while hoping for the best.