Note on NCMP-DMP convergence opportunities on various Plan issues and DMP 2021 priority imperatives for Plan revision processes, sent on 30.05.04 to Secretary Urban Development


The UPA cabinet has adopted the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) and decided to set up a National Advisory Council for its effective implementation. NCMP starts with saying people have voted for parties wedded to welfare of weaker sections and committed to well-being of the common man and ends with saying that though not a comprehensive agenda it is ‘foundation for … collective maximum performance’. NCMP could hardly have chosen a better starting premise and, while its Final Word leaves scope for other initiatives, it is expected that all UPA initiatives will reflect its commitments and, indeed, that UPA will decide, prioritize and fine-tune initiatives as per NCMP and in doing so rely on expertise, since one of its governance principles envisages a role for professionals, in which I read an invitation to concerned professionals to initiate dialogue on next-step imperatives and opportunities in areas of their expertise. Accordingly, this note illustrates expert planner suggestions to fine-tune initiatives, using as an example a case to which top-priority has already been announced by Union Urban Development Minister – the Delhi Master Plan (DMP).

Besides given priority, other factors make DMP a worthy case for evolving NCMP strategies. DMP goal of conflict-free balanced equitable sustainable development finds resonance in many NCMP commitments and all NCMP governance principles are explicit overall or sectoral DMP objectives. Moreover, DMP enjoys a modicum of national concurrence (having been approved by Parliament in 1962 and in 1990) as well as concern (being for the capital and also because views about Delhi Development Authority – whose mandate relates only to DMP – were invited by 13th Lok Sabha Parliamentary Standing Committee for Urban Development). It is pertinent to emphasize that problems in Delhi owe not to DMP inadequacies but to implementation failures for reasons such as exposed by CBI in the DDA scam of 2003, after which the Parliamentary Committee invited views. Under the circumstances, disregarding provisions of DMP on account of their non-implementation would be contrary to UPA’s pledge “to provide a government that is corruption-free, transparent and accountable at all times” and, since the non-implementation pertains to neglect of responsibilities towards the poor and common man, also contrary to NCMP starting premise and inconsistent with intent to secure social responsibility from private sector.

The convergence between NCMP commitments and DMP provisions is outlined next, followed by a few next-step imperatives arising from top-priority announced for DMP.

Convergence between NCMP commitments and DMP provisions

Regional development. DMP provisions are premised on carrying-capacity based balanced development in the inter-state National Capital Region. This finds resonance in NCMP commitment to “redress growing regional imbalances” and to measures for environmentally stressed regions. While the ground water critical part of NCR is not mentioned among the latter, DMP provisions for it are consistent with NCMP commitment to “reconcile…economic growth and environmental conservation”. Thus DMP provisions for NCR provide opportunities for NCMP implementation.

Employment. DMP provisions are based on workforce decisions (notably balanced economy) and land use decisions for efficiency (residence-work relation, etc) and compatibility (eg, informal trade as per market propensity, dairies in village-like areas, agriculture in groundwater significant areas, etc). NCMP benefits can have spin-off benefits in such framework and NCMP commitment that “Rights (of) workers … will not be taken away or curtailed” makes it imperative that DMP provisions, amounting to workers’ rights, are protected and enhanced.

Shelter. DMP, using principles of work-residence relationship, etc, sets out a shelter strategy for new housing for all and renewal of existing housing. This finds resonance in NCMP commitment to “urban renewal and … expansion of social housing” and to taking care that “poor are provided housing near their place of occupation”. That “forced eviction and demolition of slums will be stopped” is also a DMP imperative since Delhi slums are nothing but backlog on DMP targets for EWS housing. NCMP commitments make priority to clearing this backlog an urgent imperative.

Industry. DMP, like NCMP, supports small scale and service industry, ‘units which require skill, less of manpower and energy and are non-nuisance and clean and largely sub-serve Delhi economy’. However, because space meant for industries in DMP– in industrial areas and clusters to be upgraded and, subject to restrictions, in markets and housing – has not been provided, units face uncertain future and, as noted in NCMP, “small-scale industry has suffered extensively” and “infrastructure upgradation in major industrial clusters” is urgently needed. Implementing NCMP commitments pre-requires implementing DMP provisions for industries in Delhi.

Trade. DMP has pioneering provisions for hawkers and small shops. These find resonance in NCMP commitments to informal sector. Beyond technical, marketing and credit support (which is what the hawker policy approved by NDA envisages), the Commission proposed in NCMP must ensure implementation of DMP solutions. This is also needed for wellbeing of DDA, since excessive up-market development in planned commercial space is unsustainable in market terms and is driving DDA to bankruptcy, forcing it to raise resources from misuse of public land in contravention of its mandate.

Social Infrastructure. DMP provides for equitable access to facilities for health, education, etc. For instance, it sets out a comprehensive scheme for equal access neighbourhood schools for progressive integration via participation of all in a medium sized area. This finds resonance, besides in NCMP governance principle of equality of opportunity and commitment to “protect the rights of children … ensuring facilities for schooling”, its commitment to support NGO efforts, etc. DMP framework provides opportunity for convergence of efforts, with further possibilities for the proposed Commission and for education law required by the 86th Constitutional Amendment.

Physical Infrastructure. DMP provisions for physical infrastructure relate to space allocations (transport corridors / terminals / parking, water / power supply and waste disposal plants, etc) and, more significantly, to demand limitation (restricting population to water supply capacity, uses as per traffic carrying capacity, etc). There are limits to supply augmentation and, say, NCMP commitment to ‘harvesting rainwater’, etc, must be framed in carrying-capacity based DMP decisions, as must land-based finance / “subsidies … provided through the budget” so as not to reduce to zero-sum game by trading off demand limitation restrictions, as is happening in revenue-raising for Delhi Metro through property development. Likewise, NCMP commitment to “use of privatisation revenues for designated social sector schemes” requires that this does not become substitute for abdicating cross-subsidy related DMP responsibilities / opportunities, as is happening in case of privatization of power distribution in Delhi.

Sustainability. DMP provisions focus on trans-generational equity by protection of natural and built heritage, including by empowering custodian communities. This finds resonance in NCMP commitment to “reconcile objectives of economic growth and environmental conservation” and, by extension, also in commitment to cooperation of forest communities for protecting forests. This focus also provides conflict-resolving solutions and most so-called conflicts, such as between interests of the poor and of heritage / environment, etc, are contrived and foment unrest. NCMP commitment to “strictest possible action…against all those individuals and organisations who spread social discord “, might well merit implementation from this perspective as well.

Next-step imperatives arising from top priority accorded to DMP

DMP provisions and solutions represent citizens’ statutory entitlements, modifiable only by due process of law that guarantees prudence, accountability, transparency and ample opportunity for participation. NCMP commitment to “implementation of … land redistribution legislation” applies to DMP, which not only provides for redistribution but also uses it as basis for providing for other rights. And NCMP commitment to “No reversal of ceilings” applies to modification of DMP provisions that, in effect, set ceilings on various uses to ensure equitable and sustainable development.

It has to be explicitly acknowledged that recent years have seen massive DMP violations to the disadvantage of the poor and the common man as well as attempts to unlawfully modify DMP to condone or permit the same, and that the mandate of the people calls for UPA government to rectify rather than resume such trends.

Even if UPA is (like NDA seemed) inclined to abandon DMP (in name of which all land has been compulsorily acquired in Delhi for 40 years), NCMP commitments to transparency, responsibility, etc, calls for it do so not in the garb of DMP revision but by openly taking this position and repealing Delhi Development Act and replacing it with whatever it considers more appropriate and tenable. And if UPA sees in DMP considerable convergence with NCMP commitments, top-priority announced for DMP pre-requires immediate restoration of lawful DMP processes, reversal of extra-Constitutional DMP initiatives and installing of safeguards to provide safe passage to lawful DMP revision – through measures such as the following:

Restoring lawful DMP processes. Statutory, judicial and parliamentary processes underway need to be concluded, calling for following to be collated / made public:

  • Status of DMP revision as per s.10 of DD Act, 1957, and DMP provisions for Plan review, inclusive of sectoral approach papers / reports of various expert groups
  • Details of DMP modifications (with or without s.11A Public Notices) since start of DMP revision, along with views of DMP expert groups on objections received.
  • Details of court matters seeking enforcement of outstanding DMP entitlements / apropos which authorities were requested to place facts of DMP provisions in courts, along with views of DMP expert groups on implementation / accountability.
  • Disposal of responses to 13th Lok Sabha Parliamentary Standing Committee invitation for public views about DDA in the wake of CBI expose of the DDA scam.

Reversing extra-Constitutional initiatives. Recent initiatives, such as the following, are designed to pre-empt / substitute DMP processes and call for immediate reversal:

  • so-called Master Plan Guidelines issued in July 2003 outside ambit of s.41 of DD Act, 1957, which sets boundaries of central government control of DDA
  • so-called building byelaw reform being carried out by Municipal Corporation of Delhi even as making building byelaws is beyond jurisdiction of MCD under its Act
  • new legislation requiring DMP modification, such as Delhi Cooperative Societies Bill, cleared by Assembly even after lapse on s.11A Public Notice was admitted.
  • so-called national policies of Urban Development Ministry for hawkers, slums, etc, that advocate alternatives inferior to DMP entitlements.
  • Delhi development schemes at instance of various ministries, etc, in disregard or DMP provisions and priorities without due process for DMP modification

Safeguards to provide safe passage to lawful DMP revision. DDA’s drift from mandate needs ‘curing’. Unless its nodal ministry provides it protection from willful interferences (in place of lawful participation at appropriate stages) it will not be able to proceed on DMP revision as per imperatives of law and planning principles, and efficiency, competence and accountability will continue to be compromised