On World Environment Day the Sultangarhi scheme, an international heritage centre and about 2000 high income flats in the green belt in the ridge area duly notified for its critical ground water regime, was re-announced... in disregard of Delhi Master Plan and Delhi Development Act, of orders of Delhi High Court, of public opinion expressed through due process of Public Notice by over 1700 families amongst many more whose entitlements to land and water are threatened, of opinion of experts concerned about consequences for the city, of statutory / constitutional mandates of several agencies – in short, of most democratic processes meant to ensure lawful public interest prevails over vested interests.

Sultangarhi Tomb lies at one corner of the ridge-river triangle within which Delhi remained confined for centuries. By 1950s Delhi had sprawled towards east and west, but southward sprawl was limited by constrained water sources at tail-end of the river supply network. Ridge and ground water were brought under statutory protection in 1962, with the Master Plan marking this direction non-urbanizable. The Plan also proposed moderate growth in Gurgaon, southern of the ring towns meant to help keep Delhi's population within carrying capacity. Protecting this fragile region between Delhi and Gurgaon - J-Zone - is also vital to this goal as otherwise the two will merge.

In mid-‘80s the southern urbanizable limit was breached by DDA, most significantly with its Vasant Kunj scheme for 20000 flats, partly in green belt. With designed water requirement of 3.5 MGD and river supply of 1.3 MGD, Vasant Kunj draws heavily on ground water. Development over natural catchment area and water bodies has also stressed the water situation at sub-city level. City level carrying capacity implications arise from the southward sprawl triggered in form of unplanned colonies, party places, etc. Further, despite Plan requirements for integrating existing communities, Vasant Kunj developed independently of old villages and bastis and its water requirement is over and above theirs. And, in disregard of Plan provisions for balanced communities, it is mostly up-market.

All in all, current demand for water in the area may well be about 10 MGD, bulk of it sourced from the ground. A similar scenario obtains throughout the southern fringe and in Gurgaon - all together a region marked as a ground water stress prone region in the Plan since 1962 and being, nevertheless, ‘developed’ like real estate in disregard of the Plan. By 2000 Central Ground Water Authority had notified Southwest and South Delhi and Gurgaon, practically the only areas notified by it countrywide for reasons of depletion rather than, say, industrial contamination, etc. Simple calculations for the area around Vasant Kunj show that augmentation possibilities cannot possibly meet the current gap between supply and demand and that the local water crisis, with implications for the city, is full-blown.1

The crisis is really one of subversion of planned development, calling for urgent handling from that perspective. Any logical imperative requires, as starting point, complete stoppage of population-adding development in the J-zone. At present this is also the legal option. J-Zone has under Delhi Master Plan statutory protection against exploitative use, protection that flows from Delhi Development Act (under which DDA was created for sole purpose of development according to plan) and from Delhi’s land policy (under which cheaply acquired public land was placed at the disposal of the state only for this purpose). By ‘Plan’ the Act contemplates only Master Plan (which designates J-zone beyond urbanizable limits) and Zonal Plans (which detail out the Master Plan which, in case of J-Zone, permits only rural/agricultural use inclusive of green belt and water bodies). According to the Act, Zonal Plan / Master Plan can only be prepared / modified by due process inclusive of careful consideration of planning data, consultation with concerned agencies and experts and opportunity for public scrutiny and comment. Schemes not embedded in Zonal Plan / Master Plan have no legal sanctity of their own. Thus the J-zone is protected, besides from Plan violations against which action is required under the provisions of the Act, from ad-hoc schemes.Master Plan provisions also provide a facilitative statutory framework for, say, CGWA and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in respect of their statutory mandates for protection of ground water and heritage. Illegal ground water withdrawal in contravention of CGWA’s notification can be eliminated in large measure by taking action against illegal up-market development in contravention of the Plan. And Plan provisions requiring delineation of conservation areas on basis of holistic studies at time of Zonal Plan preparation provide far greater opportunity than the simplistic 100m / 200m rule available under ASI’s own legislation for heritage management of the rich cultural landscape with remnants of a complex system of historic water structures besides protected monuments like Sultangarhi Tomb.

But the fragile J-zone may well lose its legal protection in the ongoing Master Plan revision, with a J-Zone Plan purportedly having been drafted to accommodate 2 to 3 million people in it. Such can normally come to pass only through gross illegality (since due process of Master Plan modification provides sufficient safeguards against suicidal interventions) and irresponsibility (since the same process allows ample opportunity for anyone to intervene to stop what cannot be done). In addition to Plan modification provisions of the Act, Master Plan provisions that require its modification to be based on implementation monitoring data provide further statutory protection against, for instance, population-adding development in the area around Vasant Kunj, where available land is needed for ‘backlog’ on implementation of Plan entitlements of existing communities – old villages and bastis and more recent service providers’ settlements. Implementation of these entitlements would, apart from pre-empting further water stress, alleviate the current crisis by freeing natural recharge areas, such as the historic johad of Mahipalpur village (that has taken the brunt of village growth in the absence of development for village expansion according to Plan) or the natural water body on Aruna Asaf Ali Road (that has been usurped for parking by one Sahara restaurant illegally functioning on a site meant for housing nearly a thousand service providers’ families).The entitlements' guarantees in the Plan and the Plan modification provisions of the Plan and the Act thus provide an elegant and robust framework for citizens themselves to mind the well-being of the city. Normally.

But normal safeguards seem not to be working, as borne out by the Sultangarhi Case. Starting with the first indications in July 2000 of an illegal scheme by the state in J-zone, citizens in the area have been systematically challenging it on grounds of its illegality and of infringement by it of their entitlements under the Master Plan, with professional planner support. As the details of the scheme and of the kind of expert support it had became clearer, they progressively shored up their effort with matching support from water and heritage professionals. When the scheme started in March 2002 they shored up their effort with legal inputs to concentrate on illegality of the scheme, later leading to a very focused PIL in which the scheme was stopped and an inquiry ordered in September 2002. A Public Notice for plan modification was precipitated to which over 1700 families responded squarely within the ambit of their statutory entitlements. They also monitored non-compliance and connected it to other matters, both in J-zone as well as elsewhere but relating to the entitlements' questions raised by due process of Public Notice. Still, the scheme was re-announced in June 2003.

In disregard of citizens entitlements and efforts, besides of obvious lessons from a similar mistake in the 80s, a significant breach of J-Zone is imminent, with support of several state agencies and reputed NGOs and builders and professionals. The Sultangarhi Case, of interest on many counts (ridge, heritage, ground water, everyday water, housing, slums, villages, planning, law, participation, etc), is uniquely of concern as a reality check of contemporary development and governance experiments (purportedly progressive, participatory, dynamic, daring, etc) that have, inexplicably, assumed license to view citizens lawful entitlements as mere irritants.

Abridged Chronicle

July 2000: Scheme ahoy!

The first indication of DDA's scheme in the area came in the form of summary demolition of about 50 homes in about 50-year old settlement of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi, situated just west of Sultangarhi Tomb, on 05.07.2000. The question about the basis of the scheme was immediately raised in my telephone complaint of 06.07.2000 and the residents' petition of 10.07.2000 to National Human Rights Commission. The first prayer in the residents' petition was "the very intention of clearing the land on which our settlement is located should be investigated". In response to my letter to and meeting with Union Urban Development Minister, Mr Jagmohan, on 18.07.2000, Ministry of Urban Development gave written permission for reconstruction. With this leverage I met then DDA Vice Chairman to suggest that existing settlements be integrated into any further scheme as required by the Plan and current policies. In November, when NHRC had established that the demolition had been carried out at the instance of DDA, residents of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi began to ask for details of the scheme and J-zone Plan and about their entitlements to housing in the vicinity. They were joined in this by citizens' groups from other old settlements in Rangpuri Pahari as well as in older villages who sought clarifications about space for their outstanding Plan entitlements for village expansion, work places, facilities, etc. Flat residents also joined to seek clarifications about the scheme in terms, especially, of its implications for the water crisis in the area. Despite sustained inquiries, especially by residents of Rangpuri Pahari, no clarifications were forthcoming.2

September 200: What a scheme!

At a function near Sultangarhi Tomb on 25.09.2001 for laying the foundation stone for some water harvesting structures to be paid for by DDA and executed by CGWA, DDA displayed some sketches of its Sultangarhi scheme - with a massive housing component and an international heritage centre around the Tomb, all in J-zone / green belt.

In his address to a motley gathering of public school children and staff of participating public agencies, private designers and NGOs, etc, DDA Vice Chairman exhorted us, uninvited area residents, to sacrifice "out of love not confronting".

Citizens' groups in the area that had been engaging with DDA in pursuit of their Master Plan entitlements and had lately formed a synergy platform, Master Plan Implementation Support Group (MPISG), began writing for techno-legal basis of the scheme. I wrote to CGWA, which had replied to my letters in early 2000 about indiscriminate boring and unplanned water-stressing development in bhagidari in the area.

In December MPISG also called a small meeting of representatives of local civil society organisations, including those who had opposed the DDA's hotels project near Vasant Kunj, and forums of professionals concerned about heritage and environment. Forum for Indian Heritage and Culture wrote about the adverse implications of the scheme for the heritage resource and Delhi Science Forum took up its implications for the critical ground water regime, both in coordination with the primary stakeholder groups engaging in the area. The NGO Chetna, acting independently, moved Court a few months later on some larger issue in which DDA did not file reply.

March 2002: Scheme starts!

Ignoring reservations of citizens' groups and concerns expressed by professional forums, in March DDA started construction through large contractors like L&T, Unitech, AlCon, etc.MPISG wrote to ask for a public meeting for clarification of techno-legal basis of the scheme. I sent to Delhi Jal Board, CGWA and DDA a report contending that the water crisis in the area owed very largely to subversion of planned development and further Master Plan violations are unaffordable.3 MPISG also persuaded the Federation of Residents' Welfare associations, which was to have a bhagidari meeting about the water crisis with Chief Minister (bhagidari and DJB chairperson), to insist on a comprehensive scheme and restriction on unplanned development rather than settle for ad-hoc projects for water harvesting, etc. After the meeting CM was reported having directed DDA not to build more flats in the area and also to have agreed to a comprehensive scheme. But shortly afterwards, RWAs were having meetings with bhagidari officials and NGOs, including one associated with the scheme, about rainwater harvesting and DDA Chief Engineer whom CM had purportedly directed was presiding over bhumi-pujan on the site.

June 2002: Without mandatory permission and with no interference!

On 13.06.2002 a news report quoted DDA Commissioner Planning saying land use change for the site for which a scheme had been prepared and displayed and on which construction was underway was still under consideration! Ministry of Urban Development confirmed on phone that land use change had not been processed. An official said DDA Engineer Member, who DDA Commissioner Planning had said in the news report was in charge, had said the scheme had requisite permission, but was unable to tell me what that might be and who was empowered to give it under what law. Despite several letters and practically daily phone calls the Ministry did nothing to stop the illegal scheme. On 03.07.2002 CGWA wrote to DDA, with reference to my letters and a copy to me, advising it against ground water stressing development in the area. On 08.07.2002 I wrote to the Ministry a comprehensive letter, on basis of which DSF filed a PIL in August and to which DDA replied to me in September to justify the scheme even after the Court ordered it stopped.4

August 2002: Delhi Science Forum's PIL

DSF filed a PIL against the scheme on grounds of it violating the Master Plan and jeopardizing ground water. On 16.08.02 a Division Bench of Delhi High Court issued notice to DDA and MoUD to file reply in a week. DDA's counter-affidavit was filed on 09.09.02 and makes incredible reading. By way of documents it had a voluminous annexure to prove that the land was acquired (a fact not challenged), two revenue maps coloured with felt-tip pins (with no legal standing), and a letter from CGWA about post-facto regularisation of wells illegally dug elsewhere (used to convey the impression of permission for the scheme). The reply skirts questions about legality, vehemently denying illegality while admitting that the scheme started without s.11A process for Plan modification. It also skirts the question about ground water implications by suggesting the scheme is going to somehow be rain-fed. It justifies the illegal scheme on grounds of enthusiasm about some Prime Ministerial directive regarding housing shortage for the rich and about anxiety to save public land from the poor (called encroachments and conspicuously marked in bold felt-tip-pen strokes in annexed map). It begins with a circular logic that goes DDA acquires land for planned development, so whatever DDA develops on acquired land is planned and ends, in continuation of assurance that objections will be considered and accommodated through suitable planning and investment and the plea to let the scheme go on so as not to cause hardship to those it is meant for, with an offer of Rs 10 crores of public money in escrow to take care of problems to others. In the part-hearing on 11.09.02 counsel for the petitioner systematically rejected DDA's documents as having nothing to do with the matter, pointed out that claims about rain-fed development were unsubstantiated by technical data or the fact of wells already dug (of which photographs were placed in court to extreme discomfiture of the respondents), and reduced the case to the single question of did the scheme have benefit of mandatory land use change by due process under s.11A or not. Mr Arun Jaitley, appearing for DDA, admitted there was some difficulty with s.11A and went on to argue that the lapse in respect of it be construed as DDA's enthusiasm to meet housing shortage through 2000 up-market flats by reputed construction firms and that stopping the very worthwhile illegal scheme would serve no public interest and would inconvenience the reputed construction firms and leave the site open to encroachment by people. He sought an adjournment as the Ministry's counsel had not shown up and the matter was listed for 16.09.02. DDA published a Public Notice on 15.09.02 (Sunday) to invite objections and suggestions to the proposal for land use change of 56 hectares in J-zone to residential (37 Ha), recreational (10 Ha) and public/semi-public (9 Ha). In the final hearing on 16.09.02 DDA and the Ministry seemed to be trying to convey the impression this was some sort of permission for the scheme or at least evidence of commitment to due process and so continuance of work could be considered. The Ministry had not cared to file an affidavit and placed in court what the judgment calls a 'purported fax message' that outlines the progress on the proposal for the scheme since 17.11.1999. The list of dates makes interesting reading in relation to the chronology of citizens' efforts and is conspicuously quiet about requests made to the Ministry in June-July for stopping the illegal scheme, jumping from a recommendation of 15.04.02 to 12.09.02 (ie, the day after the part-final-hearing), when the Ministry considered the proposal and communicated approval to issue Public Notice on 13.09.02 to DDA Commissioner (Planning), who promptly published the same in newspapers on 15.09.02. In its final judgment of 16.09.02, the Court, taking note of the submissions of counsel for the Petitioner observed that Public Notice should have been for 90 days and not 30 days and that provisions empowering DDA to penalise, stop and demolish development in contravention of the Master Plan applied also to its own development. Rejecting Mr.Jaitley's submission that the scheme had been started to prevent encroachment, the Court opined that DDA had enough powers and resources in this regard otherwise. Rejecting his submission that no public interest would be served by stopping construction now that steps were being taken for approval, the Court observed that "Public interest in a case of this nature also demands that activities of the statutory authority be directed to confine it within the four corners of law. The statutory authorities cannot be allowed to act de hors of the statute. However high you may be the law is higher than you is also applicable to [DDA] who is authorised under the Act to implement the provisions thereof. In fact it is a fit case where the Chairman of [DDA] should see to it that how authorities of [DDA] were allowed to take such decisions which admittedly are wholly illegal and without jurisdiction". The court directed stoppage of construction and disposed off the matter.5

September/October 2002: Response to Public Notice

The PIL had precipitated the mandatory Public Notice. Citizens decided to make the most of the opportunity to try and position the Master Plan as a document of entitlements rather than as an artifact to be viewed and reviewed at will by the powers that be as well as to position the Public Notice process as the only legal, democratic and genuinely inclusive mechanism for participation. Groups from villages, bastis, flats and service providers ‘re-filed’ collective objections they had already raised. Requests were made to various public authorities whose concurrence had been claimed by DDA and the Ministry in court, to respond to the Notice in view of infringement of their mandates by the scheme. The opportunity was also used to seek from them technical clarifications about what had been submitted in court apropos existing land use, assumptions about water supply, justification of development in the area on grounds of contiguity, etc. The Public Notice was also publicized for others to respond in coordination with primary stakeholders. (Forum for Indian Heritage and Culture responded to this request. The NGO Chetna, which had filed a PIL independently of citizens' own efforts, and the Chairman of the Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj filed responses on their own). Most significantly, MPISG launched a campaign for citizens to file individual objections based exclusively on infringement of their Plan entitlements. For this it ran an Objection Facilitation Service between 01 and 15 October to collect objections on the pavement outside DDA’s Master Plan office in Vasant Kunj. More than 1700 families responsded to the Public Notice through this service. Subsequently a detailed comment on the Public Notice process, referring to lapses that had occurred, was sent to DDA Commissioner Planning.6 (Incidentally, DDA filed a review petition - only for clarification of duration of Public Notice in light of a rule amendment that allowed 30 days, after having presumed the outcome to extent of not having brought out a fresh Notice to allow 90-days in the instant case and having applied to it the 30-day rule to extent of refusing later responses.)

September 2002 - January 2003: Continuing construction

Through all this and beyond, construction continued as before on the housing site and clearance and landscaping work, including demolitions, continued around the monument. Attention of DDA and the Ministry as well as of other authorities was repeatedly drawn to this. After a certified copy of the judgment was obtained in mid-October police and vigilance complaints were also lodged against the continuing work. Thereafter attention of the local police station and, after a news item about continuing construction reported area Deputy Commissioner saying Police was not required to intervene in a departmental matter in absence of specific court directions and a letter requesting a review of the procedural regime premised on the assumption that government agencies do not violate the law had been sent, also of senior Police officials was also repeatedly drawn.Work by reputed firms finally stopped in mid-November, but the sheds and wells remained - in obvious presumption of resumption of work. Also in obvious presumption of resumption illegally excavated material was repeatedly removed from the site, with no action by the Police on citizens' complaints. Immediately after work by reputed firms stopped DDA started building a wall that was obviously part of the scheme and no action was taken to stop this either despite numerous complaints.7

September 2002 - January 2003: No inquiry needed!

As work by the reputed contractors slowly ground to a halt two months after the court orders, a request was written to the Lieutenant Governor, ex-officio DDA Chairman by whom the Court had sought an inquiry into how the scheme came to start, to expand scope of inquiry to how it continued in disregard of court orders despite citizens' complaints to various authorities and also to work on-going on other sites in the J-zone without clarifications about land use change being provided. In November an un-related vigilance inquiry into tendering irregularities was initiated at the instance of an MLA, but no steps were taken to initiate the court-ordered substantive inquiry despite citizens' letters, nor were vigilance complaints filed by citizens in view of continuing construction attended. In January a news paper reported the Lieutenant Governor as saying that no inquiry was necessary and the scheme could not be stopped and that this had been conveyed to the court. Clarifications sought about these remarks were not provided.8 about inquiry not being needed, etc, were sought vide letters of 10.01.2003 to DDA VC (copy to Secretary MoUD) and 13.01.2003 to LG. I also wrote on 25.02.2003, with reference to news reports about inauguration of a swanky police station in metro depot, Public Notice process for change of land use of site of which from Master Plan riverbed / green was underway, to point out commonalities with the Sultangarhi scheme by way of unaffordable environmental implications of illegal development on ridge and river through subversion of Public Notice process with support of all state agencies and no opposition from NGOs, etc. On 28.02.2003 I wrote to object to a tender for the sports club coming up in J-zone pending clarification of land use change by due process. On 02.03.2003, following a spate of advertisements for up-market housing schemes, I wrote to ask about the inquiry that might well show up DDA's housing land scam but seemed not to have been instituted despite court orders and citizens' requests even as an inquiry into tendering irregularities had been started at the instance of builders and politicians despite the fact that the LG had (in the same news report) himself attributed that imbroglio to just jealousies.

January - March 2003: Hearing of objections

In the letter requesting expansion of scope of inquiry, a request had also been made for a Public Hearing of the objections with participation of all concerned authorities. No response was received to this request, which was worthy of consideration especially since the circumstances of the Public Notice were extraordinary and not amenable to standard procedure. On 27.01.03 a Hearing of objections was arranged by DDA - through less than a dozen individual interviews by a Board, chaired by DDA Engineer Member and dominated by DDA Commissioner Planning, that refused to answer any questions. On 29.01.03 those who had been heard sent a joint report in continuing cooperation. The report was not acknowledged, nor were subsequent letters seeking information about the outcome of the Hearing answered.9

March-April 2003: DDA scam and asking for space for a memorial to celebrate the Constitution

In the Hearing citizens had been told that the work happening around Sultangarhi Tomb was meant only to create a park for benefit of all, including them. Residents of Rangpuri Pahari, who had been planning a celebration of the Constitution on the birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar on 14 April, wrote to ask for space for a memorial to be identified according to the Master Plan, which is silent on provisions for this and, with reference to the Hearing, to request that the same be done, if possible, in the park being developed also for them. DDA did not respond. Then, at the end of March, the CBI implicated in a shocking DDA scam all top DDA officials, including Vice Chairman and Commissioner Planning, with whose offices citizens' had been engaging. For those who had been long pointing to certainty of corruption at Master Plan minding levels the CBI expose followed by a change of guard in DDA raised hopes of a saner equation between citizens wanting to support a public authority's statutory mandate. Using the opportunity of the occasion of its celebration of the Constitution on 14.04.03 MPISG wrote to reaffirm its support for DDA as the custodian of the Master Plan.10

April-June 2003: Scheme again!

Near midnight on 25.04.03 (Friday) residents of Rangpuri Pahari caught DDA engineers removing truckloads of material from the housing site. Three trucks and a JCB were impounded on their insistence. The letter DDA officers had given the Police Station, shown after insistence on immediate reports about previous complaints, said the court had permitted removal of material collected on the site. MPISG wrote to Engineer Member to point out that the court had only permitted removal of material and equipment brought to the site, not removal of illegally excavated material that would be needed to restore the site if required. Around the Tomb as well there was more presumption of resumption of work. On 02.05.03 a news item reported Union Tourism and Culture Minister's plans for studios for young artists, mentioning that former Engineer Member was consultant on these. MPISG wrote to point out how studios for young artists would be in contravention of the Master Plan and how the civic goals sought to be achieved would be better served by, say, a small memorial to the father of the Constitution that local youth wanted. On 26.05.03 DDA brought out a tender for four wells near the Tomb, where four wells already exist (in addition to ones on the housing site). Letters were sent to DDA, MoUD, ASI, CGWA, etc, and, since a CGWA notification advises citizens to inform the police about ground water development in notified areas, also to SHO.

On 05.06.03 DDA's Urban Heritage Foundation issued a press-note about Sultangarhi Urban Design Plan, reported by all leading dailies on 06.06.03. The reports spoke of the wall, built of "random rubble hand-crafted quartzite stone columns", the entrance gateway with "minarets built with Dholpur stone to match the existing Sultangarhi Tomb" that has been built around the Tomb, of pathways "designed for allowing water to run off across or in linear manner towards shallow pits interconnected over ground or underground for maximum water recharge", of bore wells "to facilitate deep recharging", etc. Some of them also mention a "9.5 hectares institutional area within 300 metres of the ASI boundary" and also that the annual rainfall will be insufficient for the park's water requirement and the deficit will be sourced from "proposed housing colonies due to come up on both sides of the park".11 The letter of 27.05.2003 about tender notice for wells near Sultangarhi12 to DDA VC was copied to CGWA and MoUD. The tender also referred to the sports club in J-zone to a previous tender for which I had objected and I said, "You are requested to kindly clarify how J-zone activities being undertaken at public cost through the Tender under reference are legal under DD Act / Master Plan and if they have CGWA approval". I also connected the matter of a recent slum demolition in a sub-judice matter in which DDA had not replied to say, "The juxtaposition of, on one hand, tender notices and ‘development’ continuing in J-zone even after a reprimand from the Court and without the court-directed inquiry having been conducted, and, on the other, demolition-without-notice of slums here while DDA has failed for 9 months to file reply in WP 5007 & 5009 / 2002 raising serious issues about their Plan entitlements (and even as s.29, 30 and 31 require not only notice but reasonable opportunity to be heard, see encl.3) leaves one dismayed". With reference to the enclosure in the last, a letter to NHRC, I copied this also to the Commission. News reports about Sultangarhi Urban Design Plan,13 veritable re-announcement of the scheme that the court had ordered stopped and inquired into for not having followed due process for land use change came after 9 months of unanswered letters / complaints / requests about continuing construction, inquiry, Public Notice process outcome, etc.

How the cookie crumbles: Just shows what everybody knows?

On 06.06.03 itself I called, and also faxed, DDA Vice Chairman's office for an appointment and sent a note to the media. Expectedly, there was no response. On 07.06.03 residents of Rangpuri Pahari wrote to the Ministry in continuation of their letters of November 2002 and May 2003 to the Minister. On 09.06.03 I forwarded these to Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr V P Singh and also used the discussion on water in the Master Plan 2021 series at IIC to make a presentation about the grave implications of J-zone infringement for the city. I circulated there and via e-mail a note I had written on 07.06.03. A few of those present at the IIC discussion came for a visit to Sultangarhi on 15.06.02.14 included an invitation to IIC presentation on 09.06.2003 and the note of 07.06.200315 mailed also to media had an invitation to a citizens' visit on 15.06.2003 that the presentation had precipitated. There was one response to the latter. (In general the media has stayed clear of this case and a section it has [mis]reported it as an RWA matter, even as the RWAs are practically on the other side, trivialising and obfuscating the serious issues at stake - see, for instance, HT report of 12.04.2003, HT report of 28.09.2003 and Express report of 27.09.2003).

For those who feature in the Sultangarhi Case broad-stroked here, the time between the summer of 2002 and the summer of 2003, with all the effort that filled it, seems to have collapsed into some nothingness that defies the being of citizens in democracy.

Perhaps the Sultangarhi Case shows no more than what everybody knows, viz, that self-respecting citizens are out on a limb, as those in charge have assumed unconstitutional privileges to take care of themselves and those who take care of them and to limit their constitutional responsibility towards all to bhagidari pretense with a few. Perhaps the Sultangarhi Case shows this with range and depth and enough for another round in a fight that citizens have no choice but to fight - for their land, their water, their city and its past and future, their rights and their being citizens.The dice, everybody knows, are loaded, but the game, everybody knows, cannot be lost. So.

concluded. 

Encl. Letters referring to continuing work on DDA’s illegal scheme that the court ordered stopped in final judgement in WP 4978/2002 on 16.09.02, with DDA lawyers and officials present in court

Date

From

To

About

24.09.02

MPISG

DDA: Commissioner-Secretary

collective objections of Rangpuri Pahari

28.09.02

MPISG

Police: SHO

re Objection Facilitation Service

01.10.02

MPISG

MoUD: JS (D&L)

re ‘Green Belt’ being called ‘rural’

01.10.02

GDV

MoUD: Secretary

re DDA’s drift from mandate, etc

02.10.02

MPISG

DDA: Vice Chairman

re orders in 5007&9 (Arjun Camp) & 4978/2002

   

cc: Police:SHO

 
   

cc: MoUD: JS (D&L)

 
   

cc: MoUD: Minister

 
   

cc: Prime Minister

 
   

cc: Chief Minister

 

09.10.02

GDV

CGWA: Member Secretary

re J-zone developments

10.10.02

RPVEAM

DDA: Commissioner-Secretary

Objection re construction near MCD school

10.10.02

MPISG

DJB: Chairperson (CM)

Forwarding RPVEAM objection

   

cc: MCD: Commissioner

 

11.10.02

MPISG

DDA: Vice Chairman

re Arjun Camp, etc

   

cc: MoUD: JS (D&L)

 
   

cc: MoUD: M

 
   

cc: PMO

 
   

cc: CMO

 

12.10.02

GDV

DDA: Commissioner-Secretary

planner’s objection in response to Public Notice

16.10.02

MPISG

Police: SHO

with copies of court orders, Public Notice, etc

17.10.02

DSF

DDA: C (LG)

re compliance with court’s orders

   

cc: DDA: VC

 

18.10.02

MPISG

DDA: VC

re construction and process re Notice

   

cc: MoUD: S

 

19.10.02

MPISG

Police: SHO

re construction with letters of 17&18.10.02

24.10.02

GDV

DDA: VC

re scheme of 900 shops in residential areas

   

cc: MoUD: S

 

24.10.02

GDV

DDA: Commissioner (Planning)

re scheme and Public notice process

25.10.02

GDV

DDA: Commissioner (Planning)

to request CLA letter to EM (faxed by evening)

25.10.02

MPISG

Police: SHO

with copy of CLA note to CE ccEM

26.10.02

GDV

Police: DCP (SW)

re procedures for Police role vis-à-vis DDA

   

cc: Police: Commissioner

 
   

cc: Police: ACP and SHO

 

27.10.02

MPISG

DDA: Director Vigilance

complaint against ‘concerned’ officers

27.10.02

GDV

DDA: Commissioner (Planning)

re implementation of monitoring provisions, etc

27.10.02

GDV

DDA: Chairman / LG

present letter, seeking comment

   

cc DDA: VC

 
   

cc MoUD: Secretary

 
   

cc Police: Commissioner,DCP,ACP

 
   

cc MCD: Commissioner

 
   

cc DJB: Chairperson (CM)

 
   

cc DUAC: Chairperson

 
   

cc NCRPB: Chief Planner

 
   

cc ASI (Del): Superintending Arch.

 
   

cc CGWA: Member Secretary

 
   

DSF

Delhi Science Forum

(Petitioner in WP 4978 / 2002)

   

GDV

Gita Dewan Verma

(Planner)

   

MPISG

Master Plan Implementation Support Group

(Synergy platform of citizens’ groups from villages, bastis, flats, service providers)

   

RPVEAM

Rangpuri Pahari Vidyarthi Evam Abhibhavak Manch

(Parents/students’ forum, constituent of MPISG Rangpuri Pahari / basti unit)

 
  • 1. An estimate of current demand of 10 MGD is arrived at as follows. As per the approved layout plan Vasant Kunj is designed for 92191 residents requiring, at Master Plan norm of 135 lpcd, 2.8 MGD, with schools and commerce over 56.62 hectares requiring, at Master Plan norm of 45000 l/Ha/day, 0.6 MGD. Since the disposal of housing and facilities in Vasant Kunj is skewed towards far more up-market users than envisaged as basis of the norms in the Plan, demand from Vasant Kunj might well be about 4 MGD. Pre-Vasant Kunj villages and bastis in the area have a comparable population that depends entirely on ground water and would also be using 3 to 4 MGD. Additional demand is posed by institutional uses, party places pretending to be farmhouses, clubs, etc, functioning in contravention of the Master Plan within Vasant Kunj as well as in J-zone. The estimate of supply possibilities other than ground water is arrived at as follows. The figure of 1.3 MGD river supply is frequently reported in the media. From Sonia Vihar, with promised capacity of 140 MGD to cater to east and south Delhi, ie, maybe half of Delhi’s 14 million population, in proportionate population terms alone Vasant Kunj’s 1 lakh population at tail end of the network is unlikely to get more than 2 MGD even in the best scenario. The rest of the area is not connected to river supply network. Rainwater possibilities, being talked of mainly if not only about Vasant Kunj in ‘bhagidari’, are constrained by amount of rain. Vasant Kunj has total area of 381.45 Ha. At 60cm rainfall per year this gets 2.29 MCM / 503.5 MG per year, ie, 1.38 MGD. Rooftops of 19523 flats of average 1000 sqm in blocks four flats high, ie, with approximately 25 sqm rooftop per flat, get 0.29 MCM / 64.4 MG per year, ie, 0.18 MGD.
  • 2. For a part-account of efforts by citizens of 50-year-old settlements in Rangpuri Pahari, see Rangpuri Pahari Chronicle, posted in June 2003. For broad idea of concerns, range of primary stakeholders' initiatives and other interventions, see also Initiatives / Sultangarhi, posted in August 2002 ("in the hope that ‘secondary stakeholders’ will take care to inform themselves about – so as to add value to and not undermine – citizens’ efforts").
  • 3. For the report sent in May 2002 and articles, etc, based on it mail to [email protected]
  • 4. The Statesman reported that land use change was still under consideration (DDA flouts norms, goes ahead with housing project, Statesman News Service, 13.06.2002). Representations to the Ministry about it are summarised in my letter of 08.07.2002 to the Joint Secretary concerned.
  • 5. See text of CWP 4978 of 2002 (Delhi Science Forum v/s Delhi Development Authority and Ministry of Urban Development) and text of judgement of 16.09.2002. For a comment on Mr Jaitley's defense of the scheme on 11.09.2002 and how it sat in the larger sweeping disregard of the Master Plan in the discourse in which politics and development had morphed in Delhi, see Delhi Master Plan / Politics of Planning ("not a learned piece about how ideological stances do or do not, can or cannot, should or should not, guide planning. ...just a whistleblower’s account of just some developments spread over just ten days that clearly show (at least to the author) that it is pack-up time for planners. Politics of planning to facilitate politics of development has come of age") posted on 14.09.02. For the annotated text of DDA's counter-affidavitof 09.09.2002 and the Ministry's purported fax message placed in court on 16.09.2002 mail to [email protected]
  • 6. See text of Public Notice. See citizens' groups collective objections based on objections previously raised, which formed the basis of individual objections filed by 1700 families subsequently. Letters requesting response to Public Notice from public agencies were sent to Central Ground Water Authority, National Capital Region Planning Board, Archaeological Survey of India, Delhi Urban Art Commission, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Chief Minister (in her capacity as Chairperson Delhi Jal Board and Chairperon Bhagidari), with specific reference to their statutory / constitutional responsibilities in the area as well as their powers under the Master Plan and its enabling Act. Technical clarification about existing landuse was sought from DDA Commissioner Planning in terms of the basis on which DDA's counter-affidavit had denied that Master Plan existing land use was green belt and referred to it as rural in the Public Notice, arguing how the land use drawing, read with that of 1962, as well as the Plan document supported my contention of existing land use being green belt. Technical clarification about the contiguity of the area with the built up areas basis of NCRPB's recommendation, claimed by MoUD in court, was sought from NCRPB Chief Regional Planner, arguing that "stretching the ‘contiguity’ logic to its logical conclusion, regional dispersal is not possible as sprawl is not only inevitable but, from this odd perspective, ‘desirable’ for perpetuation of ‘contiguity’! I am afraid that, as a planner, I see no merit in this argument. The pragmatism (or, perhaps, opportunism) of development in contiguity with existing development can certainly not over-ride urgent imperatives arising from serious carrying-capacity and regional dispersal concerns to do the exact opposite. This is especially so when the existing development, contiguity to which is being posited as basis for further development in this area, was itself in departure from the Master Plan and sensible planned development concerns, as implicitly noted by none other than NCRPB". Technical clarification of basis of ASI's concurrence to proposal for land use change for the scheme, suggested by MoUD in court was sought from ASI (Delhi Circle) Superintending Archaeologist with reference to the heritage-friendly provisions of the statutory Master Plan that were being violated. Technical clarifications about water were sought from DDA Chief Engineer's office (which wrote to me on 25.09.2002 in response to my letter of 08.07.2002 to MoUD to say, "The contents of your representation have been gone through and found that you have given many reasons for not taking up the construction of further houses near CNG Station/Sultangarhi Tomb. One of the main reason is the shortage of water in Vasant Kunj. This very reason has been got examined through concerned SE, incharge of the area and he has reported that the construction of houses in Vasant Kunj area have been taken up with the approval of the Competent Authority. Though, it is not for the DDA to augment the peripheral water supply to Vasant Kunj and it is the responsibility of DJB, yet the DDA on its own has agreed to the payment of Rs.1.92 crores to DJB in order to augment the water supply to Vasant Kunj. DJB has already agreed and assured that the water supply will be provided for the new houses being taken up.") and also from DJB chairperson and DUAC chairman following news reports of 08.10.2002 about plans for an International Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in Vasant Kunj. To DDA's response I replied to point out inappropriateness of responding to a letter after the court had decided a PIL based on it and while all related issues were being raised through due process of Public Notice (as well as of copying the response to other private parties whom I had not marked my letter to) and to reiterate my estimates and reservations about the water situation, central to the PIL and already communicated to DDA and DJB in my report of May 2002 as well as subsequent correspondence, including about the inter-agency transfer of 2 crores of public money. I pointed out that the letter, like DDA's affidavit, provided only vague assurances and offers of public money and no answers in form of either figures in MGD or documents to support claims of concurrence of DJB and CGWA and that DDA's contention, in its counter-affidavit, that such concurrence was not needed was untenable as it amounted to DDA assuming unfettered powers in disregard of mandates of other public authorities. I asked for MGD estimates and proof of DJB and CGWA concurrence to be made public and copied this letter to DJB chairperson, CGWA Member Secretary and DDA Vice Chairman. With reference to news reports about the Liver Institute and to DDA's claim of DJB assurance and Delhi government's other ongoing activities in the area including in J-zone, I wrote to CM (DJB chairperson) to say " I presume without DJB agreeing to assure DDA water to its flats in violation of the Master Plan, DDA would have had good reason to refuse permission for your government’s Institute (besides government hospital, etc) in violation of the Master Plan on the same grounds. While DDA and DJB seem to be getting along well in the bonhomie of bhagidari, I fail to understand how that elevates either of them above the law. I have repeatedly requested that your government interventions in this area be kindly confined within the ambit of the Master Plan as this is an environmentally critical zone and simply cannot cope with the indiscipline of bhagidari. I can only request you to reconsider your choice of location for your Institute and, in any case, ensure that your plans have all mandatory permissions". From DUAC, with reference to my contention about its approval to the Sultangarhi scheme being contrary to its mandate and responsibilities, I sought status of its approval (which news reports said Delhi government had sought) now to the Liver Institute in contravention of Master Plan norms and land use anywhere in the area. A planner's objection was filed at close of Notice period after waiting for clarifications, which were not forthcoming. The detailed letter about Public Notice process lapses that had occurred was sent subsequently to DDA Commissioner Planning.
  • 7. See letter of 27.10.2002 to LG enumerating previous complaints about continuing construction. Thereafter, complaints against removal of excavated material were made on 04.12.02 to LG (with copy to DDA VC and SHO), on 23.02.03, 03.03.03 and 05.03.03 to Police (the last also about mis-behaviour of Police with complainants), etc. Complaints against the wall were made on 21.11.02 to Police (with copy to DDA and MoUD), on 26.11.02 to DDA (with copy to LG asking about the inquiry, MoUD and ASI asking about their approvals and DDA Vigilance asking about action taken on previous complaint), on 04.12.02 to LG (with copy to DDA VC and SHO), on 02.05.03 to DDA Engineer Member (with copies to others to whom previous complaints had been made). Ground water withdrawal was reported in some of these and in letters to CGWA, including one on 18.11.2002 with reference to news reports about it considering relaxing the ban on withdrawal.
  • 8. Clarifications about LG's remarks in a news report of 09.01.2003http://cities.expressindia.com/archivefullstory.php?newsid=40403&creation_date=2003-01-09
  • 9. See heard citizens' report of the 'Hearing'. On 05.02.2003 DDA Monitoring Wing wrote me a letter, purportedly in response to one I had written to MoUD, that said, among other things, "The ‘J’ zone plan has been prepared by the DDA taking into account the Regional plan as well as integration of the area with a proper transport linkages between the National Highways. However, the scheme of 56 hac. falling in this zone was approved by the Authority and public objections/suggestions for change of land use were called. Objections/suggestions given, have been heard by the Screening Board". I wrote to MoUD to say, "I am shocked at the passing reference to the 56 hac illegal scheme for HIG flats in excess of Plan norms and in disregard of regional dispersal and carrying capacity goals that was started by DDA without mandatory land use change, not stopped by MoUD, defended by DDA/MoUD in court on the most exceptionable grounds, continued in contempt of court for two months, and has not been inquired into despite court orders. The statement that objections/suggestions have been heard captures neither the seriousness of the objections, squarely within the ambit of infringement of Plan entitlements, nor the indifference of DDA/MoUD towards them. These objections have been raised by a complete cross-section of legitimate stakeholders since 2000, but not heard. Public Notice inviting objections was issued only when precipitated by the court case and over 1700 families responded individually and citizens’ groups re-filed objections already raised. In these abnormal circumstances, not even remotely contemplated by the Act, objections have been ‘heard’ through a process that seems the bare minimum required by the rules. A Board that made it clear that it was not there to provide any clarifications individually heard a dozen invitees, who have placed on record a joint report, inclusive of reservations about the hearing itself, which has not even been acknowledged. And now I am told that DDA has prepared the J-zone plan ‘taking into account the Regional Plan as well as integration of the area with a proper transport linkages between the National Highways’. The regional plan, to avoid sprawl and because of constrained water sources, does not recommend development in this area. And DDA is mandated to prepare the J-zone plan on basis of need, assessed in accordance with Monitoring provisions, not on grounds of transport network opportunities. MoUD’s fax message placed in court on the day of final judgement waxes eloquent on some contiguity justification. MoUD, DDA and NCRPB have not cared to explain how this flows from either the Master Plan/NCR Plan or even planning logic/common sense. I continue to ask: On what basis has DDA prepared the J-zone Plan, while the Master Plan and NCR Plan are both sub-review, since monitoring data mandatory for this seems not to exist? On what basis was the 56 ha scheme ‘approved’ and why has it not been inquired into? What was the outcome of the ‘Public Hearing’ of objections on 27.01.03 and, since the Notice was issued in abnormal circumstances and the objections effectively seek accountability on Plan entitlements, is more than the minimum required by rules not in order?" All subsequent complaints, etc, asked about the outcome of the Public Notice as well as the inquiry.
  • 10. See invitation to celebrate the Constitution and democracy, sent also to DDA officials, and statement of support for DDA as custodian of the Master Plan, sent to DDA VC.
  • 11. Following the impounding of trucks and JCB at midnight on 25.04.2003, on morning of 26.04.2003 formal complaints were lodged in the Police Station to ask for the trucks to be held till the matter had been taken up with authorities on Monday and for reports of all previous complaints about removal of illegally excavated material from the site. The trucks, however, were released. On insistence about a report a letter from DDA EE to SHO was shown that said, “Around 200 cum of stone boulders which has been excavated from cited work and are lying surplus to its requirement, are being shifted …from DDA work to another at the behest of the undersigned and does not gots covered under the stay order of the Hon’ble High Court Delhi.” On 27.04.2003 a letter pointing out misuse of the court's order was sent to DDA Engineer Member with copy to Director Vigilance and CBI. In continuation of this letter, a letter was sent on 02.05.2003, with copies also to Secretary MoUD, DDA VC, DDA Commissioner Planning and, with request to expedite response on complaints, local police, following the news report of plans for studios for artists near Sultangarhi.http://www.hindustantimes.com/2003/May/02/printedition/020503/detCIT14.shtml
  • 12. http://www.ddadelhi.com/Images/260503-4FOSWZ
  • 13. http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2003/06/06/stories/2003060606350400.htm
  • 14. In the fax I sent to DDA VC after unsuccessfully trying to speak or secure an appointment with him over phone on 06.06.2003 I said, "In view of High Court orders in WP 4978/2002, pendency of due process on Public Notice for land use change for the Sultangarhi / Rangpuri Pahari scheme, pendency of responses to letters seeking information of compliance of former and outcome of latter, pendency of clarification of details of scheme (sought also at Public Hearing of 27.01.2003) as well as about entitlements (including in compliance of court orders of 21.08.2002 in WP 5007&9/2002), demolition rumours on heels of recent demolition / eviction action against those raising questions about Plan entitlements, etc, besides numerous recent requests for an appointment, we urgently request a meeting with concerned DDA officials for seeking clarification of techno-legal basis of the scheme under reference. We had sought the same over a year ago, without benefit of court orders, Public Notice process, etc, when work on it started and our request was disregarded. We do so again in the hope that your efforts for cleaning up DDA go beyond tightening checks on individual corruption to containing institutional drift from mandate and on the assumption that corruption at Master Plan minding levels that CBI found fully explains past indifference to citizens’ groups making sustained efforts only to support DDA in pursuit of its statutory mandate of development according to the Master Plan."The press note of 06.06.2003http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mpisgplanner/message/5
  • 15. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mpisgplanner/message/6