Metro Matters: DDA must ask Delhi before deciding for it | columns | Hindustan Times
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Metro Matters: DDA must ask Delhi before deciding for it

The residents of Delhi have never been consulted about the shape of things to follow in their neighbourhood. The elaborate consultations flaunted in the existing Master Plan were really about broad policy directions.

columns Updated: Feb 26, 2018 12:06 IST
Shivani Singh
The DDA appears to be in a hurry to find a way out of the current impasse following the apex court-driven sealing drive of illegal commercial establishments.
The DDA appears to be in a hurry to find a way out of the current impasse following the apex court-driven sealing drive of illegal commercial establishments.(HT FILE)

A little over a decade ago, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had flaunted how the policies that would decide the urban trajectory of the national capital were prepared after extensive public consultation. In its opening chapter, the Master Plan 2021 recorded that as many as 12 study groups of experts on shelter, demography, conservation, transportation, industry, environment, land-use, infrastructure, trade and commerce assisted the Authority on sector-wise plans.

Seminars were organised, ministers were consulted, the Legislative Assembly deliberated on it and specific interest groups offered ideas. As many as 7,000 objections and suggestions were considered by the DDA’s board of enquiry, which met 17 times and 611 persons and organisations were given a personal hearing before the Master Plan 2021 was notified in February 2007.

In contrast, the DDA appears to be in a hurry to find a way out of the current impasse following the apex court-driven sealing drive of illegal commercial establishments. As traders sought immediate relief, the DDA cut short the window for stakeholder consultation from 45 days to three, before extending it by two days.

The hurry to amend the Master Plan exasperated the Supreme Court, which dubbed the DDA “Delhi Destruction Authority” and wondered if it really cared about the RWAs and the residents of Delhi: “You have to hear them also. You cannot hear only some people. Are you for the interest of Delhi’s residents or not?” The Authority is yet to explain its haste before the apex court.

While the DDA has concluded the consultation process in five days and sent the amendments for the lieutenant-governor’s approval, the resident welfare associations (RWAs) are not amused. Demanding an audit of the impact of commercialisation allowed in 2007 and action against commercial establishments for violation of fire safety, pollution, and building norms before regularising them, the RWAs wanted to be consulted with a two-week notice for maximum participation.

In another petition, the RWAs said that a committee comprising town planners, resident bodies, traders and all stakeholders should discuss the possible changes, submit its report to the apex court and only then should amendments be made to the Master Plan.

While it may appear that the DDA suddenly has such little time for consultations, but the fact is that the residents of Delhi have never been consulted about the shape of things to follow in their neighbourhood. The elaborate consultations flaunted in the existing Master Plan were really about broad policy directions.

Once that framework was in place, the MPD 2021 itself sought decentralised local area planning through a micro-level participatory approach. It directed the municipalities to build institutional capacity for the formation of “local-level participatory planning group” that would work with the local authorities.

Watch video: Why is Delhi’s Master Plan only good on paper?

This municipal ward-wise planning could never take off because of “political reasons, corruption and legal inadequacies in the existing civic laws,” says DDA’s former commissioner (planning) A K Jain, who was involved in drafting the Master Plan.

History, it seems, will repeat itself. The DDA’s board of enquiry, as reported by HT last week, proposed to regularise illegal commercial set-ups that have violated land-use permissions by pedestrianising entire markets where adequate parking space was not available. The job to identify such markets has been left to the local authorities.

“This is a call the residents, traders, police and the municipality should take together and that requires a separate, localised planning process. But in the absence of such a consultative framework, who will ensure all stakeholders have been heard?” asks Pankaj Aggarwal from the Delhi RWA’s joint front.

The Master Plan itself says that its success depends on the “people’s will and willingness to adhere to discipline in the use of land, roads, public space and infrastructure”. For this, the Plan further mandated that an “enforcement and plan monitoring group”, comprising professionals, local bodies and residents concerned be formed to evolve action plans.

The absence of immediate stakeholders in micro-planning and enforcement mechanism has created the urban mess that is Delhi. The revival of the Supreme Court’s committee that had sealed thousands of illegal establishments in Delhi a decade ago has yet again opened a window for participatory reforms. It will be an opportunity lost if the DDA tweaks the Master Plan once again, unilaterally.