DDA’s markets face an existential crisis
Rusted iron shutters, broken window panes and piazzas, waste strewn around and the staircase leading to the first floor blocked by a 10-foot high wall.
This is the condition of the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA’s) Convenient Shopping Centre (CSC) in Dwarka Sector 23.
Surrounded by high-rise residential societies, the CSC with 30-odd shops has been lying closed ever since it was constructed in the early 2000s.
While the DDA has been unsuccessful in selling a large number of shops in this CSC, just across the road is a thriving market in Pochanpur village, and a busy mall just a short walk away.
At a time when there is growing demand for commercial spaces — traders are demanding more streets in residential areas be notified for commercial or mixed land use — in the city, planned commercial spaces developed by the DDA in Dwarka, Pitampura, Rohini, Rajinder Nagar and Hari Nagar are not operational or are under-utilised and in deplorable condition.
The DDA has developed four types of commercial complexes: District Centres (15), Community Centres (50), Local Shopping Centres (122) and Convenient Shopping Centres (400 approx). But, a large number of these complexes are in a state of neglect.
Traders in DDA developed markets blame rampant commercialisation in residential areas for the failure of these planned commercial complexes.
In Dwarka Sector 18 is another DDA-developed CSC with a similar story. The DDA is carrying out repair work as it had put some shops on sale recently. In one of these shops, a family had setup their “home”. Balram (60), who claims to work as a security guard at the CSC till a few months back, said he has been living in one of the shops for the past two years.
In Hari Nagar, the CSC behind Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital has never been operational. Simialrly, the Local Shopping Centre in New Rajinder Nagar behind a double storey building has not been in operation for over a decade. “The New Rajinder Nagar LSC has auto mechanic market operating outside the closed shops. What kind of planning is this? Just 200 metres away there is a thriving market in the residential area,” said Trilok Chand Sharma, a resident of New Rajinder Nagar.
Spread over four acres of prime land near Road No. 44 in Pitampura, the three to four storeyed DDA Commercial Complex, has been under-utilised for nearly two decades. The centre, which was developed by private developers on land auctioned by the DDA in the late 90s, is surrounded by markets which are operating in residential areas — which notified for commercial or mixed land use by the Delhi government.
“A majority of shops are lying unused, as there is no demand for it. Only 40-50% office space on the top floor is occupied,” said Som Parkash Rehil, president of the market.
He added, “There is no demand for our property, as commercial space with higher Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is available on the main roads. Even banks are not ready to come here. The complex is lying in a state of neglect. It has become a den of anti-social elements and the DDA and civic agencies do nothing to maintain it.” Rehil says he has been trying to rent out his property (which he bought from DDA in 1997) for the past few years, but all in vain.
Less than a kilometre away is DDA’s LSC in Samrat Enclave, opposite Shakur Basti JJ cluster. Inaugurated the then urban development minister Sheila Kaul and Delhi’s urban development minister Sahib Singh Verma in 1994, the four-storeyed LSC is just 5-7% occupied.
DDA Markets Joint Action Committee, a group of DDA market associations, has been demanding better facilities at the these spaces and uniformity in FAR for all commercial establishments in the city. The committee has been demanding relaxation in parking and development control norms and development of markets.
SS Bhatia, senior executive member of DDA Markets Joint Action Committee, points to anomalies in the master plan regarding commercial spaces which has led to a situation like this. They have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri and DDA vice-chairman Tarun Kapoor in this regard.
“The FAR for planned commercial centres developed by DDA is 100-125 whereas commercial establishments on notified roads in residential colonies are getting 450 FAR. Why will people invest here when they are getting more FAR and other benefits?” he said.
The land-owning agency has close to 1,100 shops lying vacant in various parts of the city. Last year, the DDA had put close to 148 shops on auction, but only 25 were sold. In 2016, the DDA has put on auction 40 shops of which none was sold.
DDA officials say that the problem is with the location of these shops.
Tarun Kapoor, vice-chairman of DDA, said, “It is wrong to say there no demand as we have sold close to 250 shops (including 150 which were allotted to people from SC category at concessional rates). But there is a problem, as these markets are not doing well. I have got a few complaints in this regard.”
Kapoor said that this problem will be addressed in the new Master Plan of Delhi, which is underway. “We will try to relax the development control norms for these planned centres and also increase the size of shops as now the trend it to open big stores. We are also thinking of auctioning the sites for CSC/LSC instead of developing it ourselves,” he said.