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Monday, Dec 16, 2019

Power to the unauthorised

Illegal neighbourhoods mushroomed as people built houses on agricultural land, government land, or areas not meant to be used for residences according to zoning laws. In 2018, the Delhi Economic Survey estimated at least 4 million people – nearly a fifth of the city’s population -- were living in 1,797 such colonies.

delhi Updated: Oct 24, 2019 00:51 IST
Anisha Dutta and Sweta Goswami
Anisha Dutta and Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A view of an unauthorised colony at Mangolpur Khurd in New Delhi. In 1962, the number of such settlements were pegged at 110, with 221,000 residents.
A view of an unauthorised colony at Mangolpur Khurd in New Delhi. In 1962, the number of such settlements were pegged at 110, with 221,000 residents. (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
         

About four million people living across at least 1,700 unauthorised colonies in Delhi will be given ownership rights over their properties, the Union government announced on Wednesday, laying out for the first time the charges and the process by which it will be done.

The announcement, which marks long-awaited movement on a politically sensitive issue that has been in the limbo for over a decade, led to a renewed tussle between the Union and the Delhi governments that accused each other of not doing enough for the residents.

According to Union urban development minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre will push through legislation in Parliament’s Winter session to complete the process. “The colonies recognised up to 2014, we will regularise straight away, and the ones that came up after that will be taken care of too later,” he said.

The minister also took aim at Delhi’s state government, including the Aam Aadmi Party regime since 2015, saying a crucial part of the process – the marking of boundaries of the colonies – was yet to be completed. “Since 2008, the Delhi government has not done anything. This government would have taken till 2021. What Mr Kejriwal wanted two more years for, the DDA will go ahead and do it in three months,” he added.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said he welcomed the decisions taken by the Union government but stressed it would have done better by following more of the suggestions given by his administration.

“I welcome the decision because it was a long pending demand of the people of Delhi. The Delhi government had sent its proposal on this to the Centre in November 2015. Today, what the centre has approved is largely based on our proposal,” Kejriwal said.

He added that his administration had suggested a quicker way to complete the marking of boundaries. “We had said mapping should be conducted by GSDL (Geospatial Delhi Limited). But the DDA will do this work now. If they had taken our GSDL data, we could have begun registering right away and before elections in Delhi, all 40 lakh beneficiaries would have gotten ownership rights,” the CM added.

In a separate press conference, Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said if the Union government was serious about speeding up the process, “it should immediately bring an Ordinance”.

The issue goes back decades, through which the country’s national capital has seen a population boom.

Illegal neighbourhoods mushroomed as people built houses on agricultural land, government land, or areas not meant to be used for residences according to zoning laws.

In 2018, the Delhi Economic Survey estimated at least 4 million people – nearly a fifth of the city’s population -- were living in 1,797 such colonies. In 1962, the number of such settlements were pegged at 110, with 221,000 residents.

Of the 1,797 colonies, 69 – which are seen as affluent areas – have been excluded for now from the mechanism announced on Wednesday. These include Sainik Farms, Mahendru Enclave and Anant Ram Dairy.

CHARGES DETERMINED

People seeking to regularise their properties will need to pay charges based on the following formula: 0.5% of the circle rate if carpet area is less than 100 square metre; 1% for area between 100-250 sq.m; and 2.5% if the carpet area is above 250 square metre.

The circle rate applicable will be the same as the colony that has the highest rate in the neighbourhood. The AAP proposal had suggested it should be lower than the lowest circle rate in the neighbourhood.

For colonies on private land, the charge will be half of the charge on government land.

“We will build a portal through which people can apply. A person will go onto the site to verify the plot. We are doing everything on GIS (geographic information system) platform, a person will need to apply for the site mapping and measurement of area. After this, they can deposit the money and we will issue a conveyance deed that can then be taken to the registrar for registration,” DDA vice chairman Tarun Kapoor said.

“There will be no penalty and external development charges (EDC). Multiple plot-holders will be charged on the rate applicable to the area by clubbing all properties. Residents will have the option to pay in three equal instalments spread over a year. Any person paying full amount in one instalment will get ownership rights immediately,” the statement issued by the Union ministry explained.

Ownership rights will be a precursor to a wider regularisation process that will pave the way for installation of essential services such as sewage and water lines – many such colonies at present use septic tanks and water tankers instead.

BILL IN HOUSE

The process is tricky since plots, houses and flats have been built and sold in these areas using legal instruments such as general power of attorney (GPA). The Union government said on Wednesday it will introduce a bill for recognising GPA, Will, Agreement to Sell, Purchase and possession documents as a one-time relaxation so that such transactions can be recognized for the purpose of registration.

“The Bill will have three important aspects including transaction, the last transaction done on these properties will be recognised, a very nominal stamp duty will be charged, and the income tax liability will be done away with,” urban affairs ministry secretary Durga Shankar said.

In Delhi, land is a subject under the Union government.

The legalisation process first began in 2008, when the Congress-led government agreed to a long-standing demand ahead of elections. It got a renewed push in 2015, when the Centre – by then ruled by the BJP -- and the Delhi government – now under AAP -- decided to extend the cut-off date from February 7, 2007 to January 1, 2015, resulting in an increase in the number of unauthorised colonies from 1,218 to 1,797.

In April, 2018, Supreme Court judge MB Lokur hit out at the regularisation process while a bench that he was a part of banned new constructions in these settlements.

“On the one hand, you have colonies that are authorised -- they have to follow norms and by-laws. On the other hand, you have unauthorised colonies, which do not follow any law... Once they are regularised, you will regularise whatever they have constructed illegally. We cannot have an area where there is no rule of law, and here we are talking of over 1,700 colonies,” justice Lokur, who retired later that year, said.