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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Delhi’s illegal colonies prosper only on manifestos

Residents of over 1,700 illegal colonies say regularisation is just a ‘chunavi mudda’ (election issue) for all parties. Nearly 35% of Delhi’s population live in these areas.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 12:29 IST
Risha Chitlangia
Risha Chitlangia
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
manifesto,delhi,bjp
With close to 30% to 35% of city’s population living in unauthorised colonies, regularisation is an important issue for all political parties. After the early 80s, no new unauthorised colony has been regularised in Delhi. (HT Photo )

The provisional certificate for regularisation given to their colony by the then Congress government in 2008 had upped the hopes of thousands of residents of B-block in Sangam Vihar of a better future. To them, it meant end of “harassment” by police and corporation officials, ownership rights over their properties and access to better civic infrastructure.

But 11 years later, regularisation is a distant dream despite it being one of the top poll promises in the manifestos of all political parties in successive elections — two Lok Sabha and three Assembly elections— in Delhi.

“Yeh sirf chunavi mudda hai. Koi party serious nahi hai. (This is only an election issue. No political party is serious about it),” said Satyender Singh Tomar, former RWA president of B-block, Sangam Vihar. Tomar was one of the 11 RWA representatives who had received the provisional certificate from the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi at Chhatrasal Stadium.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, political bickering has started over the issue of regularisation. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have locked horns over the matter, the Congress is blaming the two ruling parties at the Centre and state.

The Union Cabinet in its last meeting on March 7—three days before the model code of conduct came into effect—appointed a 10-member committee under the Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal to recommend a process to give ownership rights to residents. The committee was asked to submit its report in 90 days.

But the announcement hasn’t resonated with residents of unauthorised colonies, as not many HT spoke to knew about the development. With the Centre and state government at loggerheads, residents say, regularisation is unlikely to see the light of the day.

Union environment minister and Chandni Chowk MP Harsh Vardhan says that if the AAP government had cooperated, several colonies would have been regularised by now. “There has been inordinate delay in completing the regularisation process on behalf of the AAP-led Delhi government. In the last four years, they have not even got the survey done to fix the boundaries. The housing and urban affairs minister has written to the CM last year, but they have been asking for more time,” he said.

Gopal Rai, AAP’s Delhi convenor and minister in the Delhi government, responded: “If the Delhi government has to do it, then why did the Centre form the committee under L-G?”

Stressing on the need for full statehood, which is AAP’s main issue in Lok Sabha polls, he added, “With land and services (appointment of officer) under Delhi L-G, we can’t do anything. The officials are delaying the process, but we can’t appoint officers of our choice who will work. We have been carrying out development in these colonies. Delhi needs full statehood for the regularisation to be expedited.”

With close to 30% to 35% of city’s population living in unuathorised colonies, regularisation is an important issue for all political parties. After the early 80s, no new unauthorised colony has been regularised in Delhi.

Ahead of the assembly elections in 2008, the Sheila Dikshit government initiated the regularisation process, which was longstanding demand of people, to pacify its vote bank. Of the 1,639 colonies which registered with the government for regularisation, 1,218 were give certificates. The move proved to be a master stroke as it helped the Congress secure a third term in Delhi with 43 seats.

But, it couldn’t complete the process. Senior Congress leader Raj Kumar Chauhan, the then urban development minister, blamed the BJP-led civic agency for it. “We had completed a large part of the regularisation process and cleared 895 colonies for it. But the BJP-led corporation delayed the approval of layouts But we still got sewer and water line laid, and constructed roads in several colonies,” said Chauhan, who is Congress’s candidate from North West Delhi seat in the Lok Sabha polls 2019.

The delay has led to increase in the number of unauthorised colonies to 1,797, as the Centre and the state government agreed to revise the cut-off date (eligibility to be considered for regularisation) from February 7, 2007 to January 1, 2015.

“It is a tricky issue. ‘As is where is’ basis is the only way out. Moreover, it should be done in a timebound manner,” said Chauhan.

Regularisation: problems and the way forward

From multiplicity of authority to complicated procedure to prepare the layout of densely populated colonies, civic officials cite a plethora of issues plaguing the regularisation process.

Shamsher Singh, former chief town planner of erstwhile united MCD who supervised the preparation of layouts and its approval, says that civic agency had approved more than 10 layouts of unauthorised colonies, but these were not accepted by their RWAs. “We had identified every plot along with its present use. We also identified vacant sites for hospital, schools, etc. But this is not possible now, as there aren’t many vacant plots available. No one wants to given up land for public infrastructure,” he said.

The fire safety provision of having six-metre right of way, Singh says, is not possible in most colonies. “There is a need for a more practical approach, like the one adopted in the 80s –the last time when unauthorised colonies were approved in Delhi,” he added.

Partha Mukhopadhyay, senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research (CPR), stresses on the need for a more flexible planning standards and need for putting in place civic infrastructure before giving ownership rights. “There is a need for flexible planning standards and building regulations depending on the typology of the settlement, as all colonies, authorised or unauthorised have different issues. For example, if we can’t provide sewerage in many colonies due to lack of space,we need to think of other ways to manage faecal waste.”

He added, “Once property transactions are legalised, it will result in increase in land value. The government should make provision for basic infrastructure in unauthorised colonies before giving land titles, as people will try to monetise the asset, which is likely to increase the load on existing infrastructure. But infrastructure should not become an excuse to delay land titles.”

Both Singh and Mukhopadhyay say that the existing master plan provisions or building bye-laws can’t be applied in these areas and the new master plan of Delhi (MPD-2041) should have different provisions for unauthorised colonies.

While the panel will submit its report in 90-days, starting March 7, political parties will use it to woo the voters in these colonies.

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 07:23 IST