I was candidly told I am invited to this meeting to talk about equity because hardly any one else talks about it nowadays. On my part I candidly confess I am neither public-spirited nor inclined to activism or being scholarly. I have only personal interest in equity, because I am I believe a monkey and duty-bound to defend equity like a Bouncer.
I am duty-bound to defend equity because I profess as Planner. I am also qualified to be researcher, to be trainer, to be architect. But I prefer to profess as planner. My profession is governed by planning law that mandates equitable efficient development to be its object and purpose. As Planner, I am bound and empowered by my professional duty of care to be Bouncer to defend equity as object of my profession.
I believe I am brown capuchin monkey ever since someone lately brought to my notice an experiment of 2003 in which capuchins in pairs paid with rocks for cucumber slices. The experiment monitored the reaction of the first capuchin to the second exchange. The second monkey at times got a grape, to which the first reacted by not eating her cucumber, by refusing to participate in further sessions or by hurling cucumber back at the researcher. I find complete resonance with that sort of straightforward Inequity-Aversion. On the other hand, at the complicated responses of humans, especially their 'inclusivity' compromises, I am inclined to hurl cucumber.
As Bouncer-monkey, I have legitimate personal interest in equity as well as in practicing straightforward Inequity-Aversion as a way of life.
By 1996 I had got the distinct impression that the trend of undermining planning that I had been noticing was systematic. I quit mainstream practice to figure this out. I published my halfway insights in a book that chronicled incidents in 2000 to argue that at the bottom of many problems lies systematic and unlawful inequity proliferation.
By 2000 I had also begun to track, as case study, a statutory Plan revision from beginning to end. For that I progressively switched to participant research via non-commercial consultancy to anyone inclined to engage seriously on Plan solutions, entitlements, processes. Much of this work is also in public domain on the web.
The reforms-driven transition that I have been chronicling has reached end game to trounce planning, in mission-mode. I am about to lose my legitimate interest in equity. It is apposite that I am asked to speak of it on a day to mark the loss of a dear one.
I must state I am not comfortable here. I am not comfortable in discourse that stopped talking about equity and out-shouts all others. I am not comfortable with the attention it pays to me - identifying me as activist because my clients are from 'classes' that its activists claim as their constituencies or identifying me as scholar because my professional work is accessible for criticism of the type its scholarly revel in. I am not comfortable because I am convinced that this discourse is inherently inequitable and inequity-perpetuating and saliently instrumental in the annihilation of instrumentalities for equity, notably planning. As Planner I am from the besieged other side of the battle line. The war is not over yet and I am not comfortable because I am in enemy territory.
I am here only to mark the battle-line, which has been made fuzzy. I beg to be excused from the discussions. This is no plannerly gathering and I have no un-plannerly interest in land distribution, slum demolitions or people. I have no interest whatsoever in the scholarly business of endlessly discussing of problems for building collective understanding of activists. And I am incapable of tolerating anti-Plan oratory or quackery.
Speaking of quackery, I must also state that I am not Urban Planner, as stated in the program. I have a degree in Planning, with specialization in Housing, ie I am not qualified to plan cities, only their housing component. I have a diploma in Research in housing and urban studies, ie I am qualified to study, besides housing, urban development and that is what informs my non-housing chronicles. My PhD work was on regional development and led to successful business models for community-owned rural tourism (very different from the currently fashionable 'inclusive' models for community-based public-private-partnership tourism). All this is to say that plannerly pursuit of equity is somewhat broader than engaging on slum demolitions.
As Planner specialized in Housing, most of my work is on housing and in recent years on slum demolitions. That professional work for clients in slums, however, is intensely personal and we do not talk about it to strangers. If time permits and anyone is interested I would like to mention a recent judgment that does settle the battle with the slum discourse in our favour. But I will speak only about Land Distribution and People.
Land Distribution and People are core concerns of planners -- all we do is in terms of land use and users (or misuse and mis-users). Planners prefer to work with land use allocations rather than with land distribution per se, because land use rights are more powerful than land ownership rights as instrumentality for equity. Indeed, the concept of equity originated in that distinction. In land use based Planning, equity has evolved as part and parcel of other rights and concerns.
Master Planning is common land use planning technique. Delhi Development Act, on which most Master Plan enabling law in India is patterned, creates an Authority for sole object of development according to Plan and mandates a Plan based on civic survey to, I quote from section 7(2): (a) define the various zones into which Delhi may be divided for different purposes of development and indicate the manner in which the land in each zone is proposed to be used (whether by carrying out thereon of development or otherwise) and the stages by which any such development shall be carried out; and (b) serve as a basic pattern of frame-work within which the zonal development plans of the various zones may be prepared.
By definition the Master Plan is thus about land use allocations for users in space and time and about frameworks for detailed planning to actualize these allocations. By convention, it consists of Land Use plan, policy provisions, development code and monitoring schedule. I like best the Land Use plan: awfully ugly Technicolor map that is such a beautiful work of art - statutory budget of land use rights allowing vast flexibilities within rigid boundaries to ensure distributive justice across land-uses and users.
The colours are for uses and a most striking feature is minimal allocation for uses like commercial that conventionally pay for non-remunerative uses. This planning efficiency is key instrumentality for equity and exact opposite of emergent models of maximising use of land 'as resource'. For classes of users you will not normally find separate colours in the Land Use plan. Those are integrated for various reasons. Integration is efficient, allowing equal access to facilities by simple cross subsidies, and in line with plannerly propensity to harmonize. Segregation is unsustainable and inequity-perpetuating due to typical O&M issues and it marks class enclaves that can be exploited. Such marking on the Land Use plan is plannerly sin.
The Plan is statutory, document of settled entitlements in equitable efficient solutions. The point is not whether the entitlements and solutions are good enough, they can always be bettered by statutory Plan processes. The point is quite simply that they cannot be lawfully reduced to 'inclusivity' ideas negotiated in extra-statutory discourse. That is the battle-line between the Planner and the Discourse. I wish to mark it with a few examples, from experiences of clients in Delhi.
Children are all entitled to a common school system via a mandatory neighbourhood school plan. Enforcing this requires rectification of illegalities -- by way of rampant mis-allotments of school sites by Delhi Govt and some mis-use by schools. By 2003-04 parents in flats, villages and bastis near my house had even won a joint PIL for that rectification. But the violaters are not inclined to rectify illegalities and are busy legislating the consequent inequity -- by reducing minimum sizes of schools, expanding size of 'neighbourhood' from 1.5 km walking distance to 8 km bussing radius for interview-free admissions, etc. All this allows excess of supply over neighbourhood demand and thereby non-local enrolment and consequent 'commercialization'. For local children, notably the poor, who get excluded 'inclusivity' options like afternoon-schools, in-situ schools, free seats, etc, are endlessly negotiated as popular pastime. The alliance of interests in sustaining, and now legislating, the problem is obvious and it dominates the discourse. Meanwhile, scores of my children have already missed their primary school bus.
Hawkers are all entitled to master plan space integrated in all planned locations that are commercially viable. This is significant, as problems faced by and due to hawkers are entirely on account of their being on unplanned sites. About 400 hawkers near my house had demonstrated this by 2001 and also won assurances, later also in counter-affidavits, for enforcing the mandatory master plan solution for integrating them in markets, etc, and proposals and requests on similar lines have been made from many other places since then. Two leading ladies' NGOs, however, have been deepening democracy with extraneous pressures on authorities to adopt their 'inclusive' ideas to expand the problem of road-side hawker markets, with or without in-situ prettification, surveys, collections, etc, all by themselves or their friends. To date the public-spirited ladies have demonstrated one such pilot-project for less than 200 hawkers that residents of that (low-income) area have challenged in courts. Their model, nonetheless, is about to become Supreme Court approved city-wide scheme that also makes the mandatory integration of hawkers in markets illegal. The alliance of interests between 'inclusive' hawker-markets on roads and exclusive malls on commercial sites is obvious. Yet those supporting one claim to oppose the other and they dominate the discourse on both.
Malls are impermissible on commercial sites in residential areas. Those are for local facility, with numbers of different types of shops and hawkers clearly stipulated. They are also for workplaces to which village communities whose lands were acquired for development according to Plan are entitled. My clients in urbanised villages have been asking since 2002, including in PIL, for relocation of shops at edges of their 'LalDora' to planned commercial sites otherwise being lost to malls. In 2006 environmentalists dramatically secured a stay on the Vasant Kunj Malls just outside Vasant Kunj. My clients include the gentlemen that owned that site and do not agree it was or needs to be ridge forest and have lately succeeded in quietly stalling EIA clearance for another under-construction Mall in Vasant Kunj. Medha Patkar was around to talk water to protest the stalled Malls on 16 September, when court-ordered sealing had to resume and we were debating whether to lodge complaint against continuing construction of the other Mall before or after the sealing of our shops entitled to relocation to that site (as the public we are always called upon to prove bonafide in our private-interest actions, unlike private NGOs/CSOs whose claims of acting in our interest are never questioned). We read in the papers later that, like Sonia Gandhi at inauguration of Sonia Vihar later the same weekend, Medha Patkar at her water fret about the stalled Malls (that had invoked Sonia Vihar in their EIA reports) also did not mention the sealing drive that is driving the business of mixing up land use allocations.
Un-embedded reporter in war-zone, I could go on endlessly about such battles that little-people and belittled-people are not allowed to win in the war between equity by planning and inclusivity by discourse. But I am here only to mark that battle-line, which is always being blurred by the discourse.
This week the protests against sealing of shops turned violent. In 2000 I had picked Delhi as my plan revision case study for many reasons, including incidents of violence against the master plan when protests against sealing of industries had turned violent.
In my book I had chronicled the industries imbroglio in a chapter titled The Great Terrain Robbery. In all that was being said about the problems caused or suffered by industrial use and users violating the master plan, nothing was said about the 2000 hectares of industrial space marked over well-located sites across the city for the solution in the same master plan. That chapter ended in 2005 with the notification to amend the Plan to allow the problem to continue, ie the first land use allocations mix-up notification.
The recent mixed-use notification to similarly deal with problems caused or suffered by commercial use in residential areas has come about within a year, with most unplannerly efficiency in a changed political regime. For the rest, the pattern in which bulldozers and sealing squads are driven to demolish and seal the law is unvarying: court orders against Plan violations in PIL about problems, well-publicized demolition or sealing or eviction, well-publicized anti-Plan quacking, aggressive violent demands to regularize Plan violations, and opportunistic amendments to the Plan to abandon equitable solutions and legislate the problems and inequity, ostensibly on public demand.
Public authorities are driven to demolish, seal, evict and the public driven to demand, with blood on the streets, the right to mix manufacturing, trade, health and education facilities in residential area. Residential area is less than half the city area. For the other half of city land, that is to accommodate the uses being demanded to be mixed-up in residential area itself, the proposed use is 'as resource'. That, too, is not as per Plan and requires amendments.
In 2005-06 MOUD has also made a number of Plan amendments for land use change for specific projects like commercial IT Park on riverbed (ostensibly to raise money for the metro) and housing on District Park at Tehkhand (pilot-project for some premium housing to finance some in-situ slum rehousing for which a JV of DLF & Indiabulls won the bid) as well as for sweeping liberalization, such as to lift about 750 Ha out of the purview of the Plan for unfettered 'metro property development' at all stations and relax development controls for hospitals to enable 'world-class' facilities (for which it has also started allowing takeovers of / JVs with charitable trusts to whom Delhi Govt had distributed essentiality certificates for neighborhood hospitals, while itself leading the way in misusing similar sites for global facilities). There were over 800 responses to the public notice for the proposal to mix up industries in residential areas and twice as many for the one to mix up commercial use in homes that was issued along with one to relax development controls for residential buildings, all to amplify the discourse. There were 3 responses to the public notice for Tehkhand project and 7 to the one for unfettered metro property development, all out-shouted (even after they had led to court matters and stays) by the discourse that debated whether the Tehkhand District Park site was owned by DDA or MCD and whether the metro corridor ought to be elevated or underground.
All such Plan amendments throw equitable land use allocations out of the window and are patently impermissible. The exercise of demolition and sealing powers to advance purposes contrary to Plan is also patently impermissible. Regularisation by Plan amendments is also patently impermissible -- not on moral grounds that law ought not to be changed to fit illegalities, but because planning law permits regulations to condone violations case-by-case. The difference between the two is akin to that between grace marks and reducing pass percentage. The former would have to be done on responsibility of government. The latter requires public notice and Mr Ajay Maken seems to have acquired great expertise in managing that to be able to claim complicity of the city in mixing-up shenanigans.
None of what is going on in the Capital makes any techno-legal planning sense. Regardless of all the abuses the discourse hurls at the plan and planners, all this has nothing to do with us. What all this fits very precisely is the GATS-compliant JNURM, which is primarily a mission to abandon planning law in favour of pay and play use. In Delhi, it is also a mission to achieve the largest ever privatization -- of public land acquired over half a century by a policy of socialization of land for the master plan. What the capital is witnessing is the advance of this unholy mission.
Like with all things fashionable, there is the usual ab-initio fuzzy criticism for the mission that does little more than bring together all that the anti-Plan 'inclusivity' discourse has been advocating or indulging. The whole does seem somewhat greater than the sum of the parts, which might have explained the discomfort except for the fact that, instead of resolving inconsistencies between prior and current positions, the discourse continues to advance its previous advocacies alongside its obfuscating criticism. The mission is founded and thriving on fuzziness and, in a striking new trend of what I am inclined to call 'participatory committee-fication of the planning process', has brought together also all those who have been driving the anti-Plan discourse.
The public notice for the recent mixed-use amendment unabashedly said it was for implementing recommendations of an Expert-Committee, viz Tejinder Khanna Committee, that MOUD had constituted for building and use in violation of the Plan. That Committee has recommended also repeal of Delhi Development Act, which does make exercise of powers under the Act for implementing its recommendations rather 'autovorous'. Subsequently MOUD has constituted an Expert-Committee for farmhouses and unauthorized colonies of the affluent and an Expert-Committee for Lal Dora. Other committees have been appointed for restructuring MCD and multiplicity of authorities and by the courts (those are also participatory, albeit dominated by men and women in black, as they are extra-statutory).
The Tejinder Khanna Committee had two technically qualified persons, of which one (EFN Rebiero) had been judged guilty of professional misconduct by Council of Architecture just three months earlier. The Expert-Committee for farmhouses and unauthorized colonies of the affluent had as technical experts EFN Ribeiro and AGK Menon, director of an architecture college that functions out of an unauthorized farmhouse building, all owned by a trust owned by a builder known to have been involved in developing unauthorized colonies of the affluent. The Expert-Committee on Laldora names Jamal Ansari, currently Emeritus Fellow in Jamia University, as Architect in a case of illegal misuse of title of Architect.
Each of these Expert Committees invited public views -- on their patently inexpert TORs. The report of the Tejinder Khanna Committee lists hundreds who participated in this curious expert-process, nearly all of them NGOs/CSOs or councilors/MLAs, but acknowledges only a few by name, in para 4.2 that says: "The Committee also received useful professional suggestions from the Chairman and Managing Director of Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), Prof.K.T.Ravindran of the School of Planning and Architecture, Shri K.P.Singh, Chairman, DLF Group and Shri Dunu Roy of Hazards Centre, a Social Activist representing the interests of residents of JJ Clusters". None of these men are qualified planners and, except for Mr Singh of DLF, cannot even claim to represent on the TOR of the Tejinder Khanna Committee the institutions and interests named against their names.
Then there was this e-mail being privately circulated on 01/09/06, around when public hearings for the mixed use public notice were ending, that said: "Dear Friends, As you are all aware, the MCD (egged on by the Supreme Court) has once again launched its drive to seal all premises in residential areas where commercial activities are being carried out. Some professions and activities (lawyers, doctors, chartered accountants, architects) have been exempted from this action. Owner-occupied residential premises where 50 per cent of the space is used as an office are also exempted. Non-profit organisations, Registered Societies and Trusts are not included in the list of exempted categories. Almost all of us (barring the lucky few who have offices in institutional areas) operate from premises in residential areas. We are all therefore at risk of having our premises sealed and activities disrupted. The situation is serious - immediate collective action is called for to protest this move and to get NGOs and non-profit social organisations included in the list of exempted categories. Some of us (including Ritu Menon of Women Unlimited, Dunu Roy of Hazard Centre and Anil Chaudhary of PEACE) have been in touch and are suggesting an emergency meeting to discuss options and strategies at 1130 hrs on 4 September in ISI...".
There were follow-up mails about a petition to Mr Jaipal Reddy and Mr Ajay Maken and an appointment with Mr Jaipal Reddy, etc. The final notification does not exempt these admitted mis-users. Now that sealing of the un-exempted has resumed, the Ministers ought to initiate steps to have sealed all admitted and un-exempted mis-use that has been brought to their notice. The discourse also ought to take, alongside its stand on misuse by public, its stand on misuse by its own protagonists.
Apparently, decisions concerning Land Distribution and People in the capital are being taken by a handful of mutually empowered persons who are themselves indulging in illegalities and have a vested interest in advancing the anti-Plan positions they occupy ostensibly in public-interest. These anti-Plan persons are not The People and they are not talking planning sense and they have made the discourse stop talking equity and become inequitable and inequity-perpetuating.
Of course, the anti-Plan equity-indifferent protagonists have succeeded in all this with plenty of help from the others on account of what I am told ought to be called, instead of what Bouncer-monkeys hurl like cucumbers, mere 'laziness of the mind'. I find that too tame and have found a more suitable one for lazy-minded gentlemen, from Romain Roland: "This globe is captured by scoundrels, not not because of their strength, but because of inactiveness, absence of boldness to show timely action and mental weakness of gentlemen". I must add that we end up wasting a lot of our cucumbers and cucumber-hurling effort, as we have no means to distinguish between scoundrels and gentlemen on this side.
With apologies, but that is how we talk on the other side of the battle-line, where we still talk equity and other things old-fashioned.