Delhi has developed on agricultural land of nearly 150 villages, whose engulfed settlements go by the odd name of . Their residents are the city's oldest and wield considerable clout in its politics. Their settlements are amongst its most derelict. The combination spawns dynamics prone to tension and deserving of attention. The case of Mahipalpur, a 400 year-old village with 14th century heritage structures that has lost rather than gained from the development for which it had to give up its lands and continues to be denied its own a-priori entitlements to benefits of planned development, provides a few insights.
|Hunting Lodge / Mahal||Old pump house||Chaupal||Skyline now|
On the night of 10.07.2003 part of the historic Mahipalpur bundh, one of the two surviving dams out of the 14th century water structures built by Firuz Shah Tughlaq, broke. The bundh is a nearly 2 km long C-shaped wall to the east of Mahipalpur village, enclosing a natural depression - haud - where water from higher land to the north collects. Arched sluices in the southern segment released the overflow into the nullah that flows into the higher land to the south. To the west is Mahipalpur johad that would have collected water from the higher land to the south and maybe also from the overflow of the haud. Currently the sluices are in disuse, the point where the nullah meets the bundh has been built upon by one and part of the haud is occupied unauthorisedly by one and a part authorisedly - to extent of land allotment by DDA - by CISF flats.
|14th century Bundh||Haud to the North||in the Haud||CISF flats in the Haud|
On 10.07.2003, after several hours of rain, Defence Enclave and CISF flats began to get flooded. A part of the bundh was broken to release the water. Through 11.07.2003 the water that the bundh would have contained in the haud flowed out and west to NH-8 submerging the road, flooding Mahipalpur village to its north and unauthorised colonies to its South, putting NH-8 out of action as well and flooding settlements near and link to the airport. By evening Delhi government's Flood Control Department had arrived to repair the bundh. On 12.07.2003 the rains stopped, but the water in the flooded settlements had no where to go.
On 14.07.2003 a junior engineer overseeing the repair work told a reporter, "We started work on the wall on July 11 and it will take us another day to fortify it. The work is temporary but it will withstand this season’s rainfall". The news report1 quoted the Chief Engineer as saying, "We don’t want to involve ourselves in it any further as it could be a listed structure with the ASI". The District Commissioner was quoted saying, "I’m aware that the structure belongs to the 14th century. Much as I would like to preserve the heritage, it isn’t possible because of the growth in population. Presently, we will be evaluating all possibilities and put up culverts to drain the water in a proper manner."
A solution - way beyond temporary repairs or ad-hoc culverts - not only exists but does so as citizens' entitlement under Delhi Master Plan, the statutory framework for Delhi's development that all tiers of government and various authorities are duty bound, by virtue of their representation on Delhi Development Authority, to progressively further and not, in any case, contravene.
But in the emergent bhagidari between elected governments and some selected others for dynamic planning in the vein of blind men around the elephant heritage management in the area is happening not through protection of 14th century water harvesting structures or a 400-years old village (which is what the Master Plan requires) but with the illegal for modern international heritage centre and modern rainwater harvesting structures amidst HIG mega-housing flats in the green belt. Land in the vicinity of Mahipalpur is being used not for planned development for village expansion to pre-empt encroachment of johar and haud (which is what the Master Plan requires), but for unplanned flats, mall, etc. Development of infrastructure within the settlement (which is also what the Master Plan requires) is made impossible because the population growth that had to be accommodated through expansion schemes has imploded and there is no elbow room for making any intervention.
The obvious solution is also the legal one and the one Mahipalpur residents have been seeking (through letters, 836 individual family objections in addition to a collective objection2 against the Sultangarhi scheme through due process of Public Notice, a court matter asking for priority in allotments in new development in the vicinity, etc) a comprehensive scheme for implementation of their Master Plan entitlements and stoppage of all unplanned schemes on land acquired from villagers only for development according to Plan.
Within the ambit of this request they have also sought bhagidari under Chief Minster's scheme for villages, priority for their historic water structures following a Delhi minister's announcement of intent about johads and ponds in villages, priority in CGWA interventions over miniscule impact roof-top harvesting, clarification from MoUD about committee constituted for more planning for village problems, clarification from MCD and SPA about plans to conduct village studies to do more planning, clarification from DUAC about approvals to unplanned schemes that are destroying environment and heritage, clarification from ASI about its plans for them, clarification about whether or not their water structures feature on some list of 508 drawn up by an NGO and become basis for decision making in PIL, etc.
Amidst the cacophony about dynamic planning schemes on land acquired cheaply and compulsorily from them for development according to the Master Plan their pleas for implementation of their own Plan entitlements, inclusive of holistically minding their 14th century wall, as well as against development in contravention of the Plan, including DDA simplistically building an illegal 21st century wall in the name of heritage management, have remained drowned, voices of victims become victims of noises.
DDA's Urban Heritage Foundation, which had proudly issued on 05.06.2003 a press release3 about the 21st century wall it had simplistically made (illegally, since was accorded (only) by DDA only on 20.06.2003) in the name of heritage, has not commented on the breach of the 14th century Mahipalpur bundh that it is duty-bound to holistically mind. Various heritage and water walas working closely with UHF (including on the Sultangarhi scheme) and, so, leading from the front the discourse on , including in Supreme Court and High Court and in committees that propose and approve illegal heritage management interventions, have also remained quiet. (Incidentally, on 10.07.2003 - the day that the Mahipalpur bundh was breached - someone from one Centre for Civil Society called up to ask for my on urban villages for use in a on urban villages in a that they are doing for my government). MCD, which had promised a study4 of villages including Mahipalpur a year ago and has been announcing all kinds of heritage and water management interventions of its own elsewhere, has also not commented. Chief Engineer for Flood control in the city, who might be expected to know all about flood-prone water systems in general and in view of government's noble intentions announced nine months ago about traditional and historic ones in particular, does not desire "to involve" lest the bundh is listed with ASI. The Superintending Engineer of ASI's Delhi Circle, who had been quoted saying in a news report5 a year ago that Mahipalpur's water structures, albeit not protected by ASI, were historically significant and ASI had served notice to authorities in respect of them, has also not commented. District Commissioner, with empowered responsibilities ranging from minding public purpose public land acquisition at the cutting edge to stopping illegal ground water withdrawal on which vested interest development in this duly notified area thrives, has regretted that our right to minding of the Mahipalpur bundh "isn't possible" and offered to examine, instead, possibilities of culverts and drains. All these and others busy with our heritage management have, or should have by law, empowered responsibilities on DDA's Urban Heritage Foundation.
And still Mahipalpur's 14th century bundh was breached.
But the dam did not break. The pretty sluices are intact and there's at least something there trying to hold it up so that another one does not bite the dust of dynamic planning.
to be continued...
In September 2001 DDA displayed its unplanned and Mahipalpur's Yuva Jagriti Manch and later Gram Sewa Samiti started writing to DDA to object to the unplanned scheme and stake a-priori claim on land in their vicinity for their backlog entitlements. A letter of 10.09.2002 from the Gram Sewa Samiti to DDA Vice Chairmansummarises matters up till then.
Sub: Reiterating request for development for Mahipalpur in line with Master Plan provisions in the context of on-going / proposed ‘studies’
1. As you may be aware, Mahipalpur is a historic village located north of the Mehrauli-Mahipalpur road and east of NH-8 in the area where the north-south ridge and the southern east-west ridge meet. In the 14th century Feroze Shah Tughlaq had built here a hunting lodge (which still exists) and a bundh to retain rainwater flowing from surrounding hilly mounds (one of the two surviving bundhs built by Feroze Shah). In the 17th century the kasba of Malakpur Kohi that had come up about 2 km southeast near Sultangarhi Tomb in the 13th century was abandoned because the deep wells it depended on were running dry. A number of its families shifted then to Mahipalpur.
2. In 1962 the Master Plan for Delhi earmarked 357 acres for mining activity near Mahipalpur. Otherwise the area fell beyond urbanisable limits, with inviolable green belt across the Mehrauli-Mahipalpur road to the south. The Master Plan did have proposals for conservation of historic villages, but no development was carried out in line with these by DDA.
3. In the 1980s, DDA started developing, partly on land acquired from Mahipalpur residents, its Vasant Kunj scheme of flats for 100,000 people. The Master Plan of 1962, which was still in force, had said, “Any village or abadi which is overtaken by urban development should not be left as such, as otherwise, the city will be pockmarked with the type of slums such as Kotla Mubarakpur but should be redeveloped and integrated with the neighbourhood” (p.27). But DDA’s Vasant Kunj scheme did not include any proposals for the benefit of Mahipalpur in line with this.
4. The revised Master Plan for Delhi approved in 1990 says for urban villages (which Mahipalpur was declared in 1983):
No development for the benefit of residents of Mahipalpur has been forthcoming in line with these:
5. On the other hand, in the 1990s, several problems have arisen in and around Mahipalpur on account of development of Vasant Kunj, notably the following:
Your attention has been drawn to these by the letter of September 2001 of the youth group of our village (Yuva Jagriti Manch) and our letters of April and July 2002. (We had also written earlier to the Lieutenant Governor – chairman DDA – in December 2001 specifically in respect of sewage disposal problems). In our recent letters we have requested, as a solution to our varied problems, a comprehensive scheme for development within the village as well as priority to facilities for the village on remaining land in the vicinity.
6. We would like to emphasis that our ‘requests’ for a comprehensive scheme for village development and facilities on land in the vicinity are entirely in line with our long overdue entitlements under the statutory Master Plan. In fact, DDA should have taken care of these on its own any time since 1962 when the Master Plan came into force and certainly while developing Vasant Kunj. We are unable to understand why DDA is so unwilling to do even on repeated request what it is duty-bound to do anyway.
7. We would like to specifically mention that over the last few years, traditional housing and water harvesting structures are being destroyed by rebuilding, encroachments, etc. The case of our village johad is an example. In April 1997 our Samiti, after managing at least to get the government to do a survey of encroachments on the johad, had written to Lieutenant Governor. In July 2000 we had written to our Member of Parliament and in December 2001 again to LG. In March 2002, by when we had managed to get the government to do another survey that showed encroachments had doubled, we wrote again to LG to request urgent action. In June 2002 we wrote to the Chief Minster in view of her interest in rainwater harvesting in Vasant Kunj to request that our johad be taken up on priority and later made a similar request to Central Ground Water Authority. Also in June 2002 you were quoted in a newspaper report saying about our johad that if it exists you will look into its improvement. We had written to you to assure you that it exists and that your Superintendent Engineer had inspected it at the intervention of our Member of Parliament. Despite our efforts, encroachments continue and we have managed nothing but two surveys that show what we already know. These encroachments are clearly illegal / unplanned and since they are destroying our johad which is a part of our heritage as well as of the ground water recharge in this critical area they are also seriously contrary to the Master Plan. We are unable to understand why DDA has taken no action to pre-empt them, not even on our repeated requests, through interventions mandatory under the Master Plan.
8. We have lately learned that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is planning a ‘study’ of urban villages, including Mahipalpur (Indian Express report of 21 July 2002). We also came to know earlier that some ‘studies’ of urban villages for the Master Plan review were mentioned at a seminar. And some students of School of Planning and Architecture in our village currently seem also to be doing some ‘studies’. We are sure all these ongoing / proposed ‘studies’ will be very educative for others. But we doubt if, like the ‘surveys’ of our johad, if they will show us anything we do not know or help in any way the implementation of our statutory entitlements under the Master Plan since that does not appear to be their focus. We also worry that they might provide an ‘excuse’ for delaying real intervention that we have been requesting for long and that should anyway have been made even longer before. Further, in view of DDA’s enthusiastic development of more flats in the remaining land here, we also fear that by the time these ‘studies’ are ‘completed’, there will be no land left to implement our statutory entitlements.
9. While we are, by no means, opposed to ‘studies’, etc, we would appreciate it if you could reassure us on the following counts:
10. Finally we reiterate our request for DDA to prepare and execute a comprehensive development scheme for the village, including facilities on land in its vicinity, in line with the Master Plan. We are sure that the Plan monitoring that DDA is required to do under the provisions of the Master Plan clearly shows that our development needs represent an implementation backlog in planned development that is of the longest standing and merits the highest priority. We would like to take this opportunity to assure you of our full support in the implementation of the Master Plan.
Looking forward to your response,
President, Gram Sewa Samiti (Regd)
Following news reports of Delhi government's plans to develop village johads and ponds, Mahipalpur Samiti wrote to the Minister about their historic johad and pond. Since objections were then being filed in response to the Public Notice about DDA's illegal Sultangarhi scheme, they also requested the Minister's support in this.
Mr Haroon Yusuf, Hon’ble Minister for Delhi Development / Food and Civil Supplies Government of NCTD Delhi Government Secretariat, IP Estate, New Delhi – 110002 Sub: Historic johad and pond in Mahipalpur village Ref: Today’s news reports: Success story of water harvesting (Hindu) and ‘Ponds will help in recharging groundwater’ (Express Newsline).
We would like to congratulate your government on its efforts to develop johars in 70 villages and its plans to do so in 40 more and to isolate village ponds from sewage disposal networks, etc. We would also like to draw your attention to Mahipalpur’ johad and pond, which along with a bundh, have been part of a historic system of rainwater management and ground water recharge. We have been trying our best to draw the attention of authorities to their alarming status, but no intervention has been forthcoming for their conservation.
In April 1997, after a government survey of encroachments on the johad, we wrote to LG. In July 2000 we wrote to our MP and in December 2001 again to LG. In March 2002, by when the government had done another survey that showed encroachments had doubled, we wrote again to LG. In June 2002 we wrote to the Chief Minster in view of her interest in rainwater harvesting in Vasant Kunj to request that our johad be taken up on priority and later made a similar request to CGWA. Also in June 2002, after DDA Vice-Chairman was quoted in a newspaper saying about our johad that if it exists DDA would look into it, we wrote to him to assure him that it exists and that DDA SE had inspected it at the instance of our MP and former Councilor. Despite our efforts, encroachments continue and we have managed nothing but two surveys that show what we already know, viz, the encroachments are growing. These encroachments are clearly illegal / unplanned and since they are destroying our johad which is a part of our heritage as well as of the ground water recharge in this critical area they are also seriously contrary to the statutory Master Plan.
DDA has done nothing in the last 40 years to implement our Master Plan entitlements that could well have, among other things, pre-empted encroachments on our johad. For several months now we have repeatedly written to DDA for a comprehensive scheme. Even as it has not responded to our request for Master Plan implementation, it is now ‘justifying’ its own illegal scheme for 2000 flats here in violation of the Master on grounds of protecting public land from encroachment. We are opposing the scheme on grounds of our backlog entitlements having a-priori claim on land in the vicinity and also because already our village is facing problems on account of DDA’s development of Vasant Kunj, including due to sewage disposal affecting our pond. We genuinely fear that construction of more flats in the area will create greater stress on our johad, pond, etc. We have already written on 1 October 2002 through our Master Plan Implementation Support Group to the Chief Minister for support in this regard.
In view of your government’s initiative, we request you to kindly:
We are sure that you will consider our request favourably and also respond to our letter.
Master Plan Implementation Support Group forwarded this letter to the CM with copy to ASI and CGWA.
Smt Sheila Dikshit, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi / Chairperson, Bhagidari CMO (Bhagidari Cell), Level-3, IP Estate, New Delhi – 110002
Sub: Request to respond to DDA’s public notice inviting objections/suggestions in respect of proposal for landuse change for scheme for 2000 flats, etc Ref: Our letter of 1st October 2002 and Mahipalpur Gram Sewa Samiti’s etter of today to Shri Haroon Yusuf (copies enclosed)
Respected Madam, In continuation of our letter under reference we are enclosing herewith a letter written today by our constituent, Mahipalpur Gram Sewa Samiti to Shri Haroon Yusuf, Hon’ble Minister, apropos news reports about Delhi Government’s initiatives in respect of johads and ponds in villages, which have been lauded by CGWA.
We beg to draw attention to the historic johad and pond in Mahipalpur, in respect of which ASI has also drawn the attention of authorities as per news reports and, as requested of the Minister vide the enclosed letter, request:
We are sure that you will not disappoint us and that you will respond to our letter.
Convenor (Village Groups)
encl. (as above)
cc. (for information and support, in continuation of our letters of 01.10.02, with copy of the same and of Mahipalpur Samiti’s letter of today)
In October 2002 DDA came out with a scheme for disposing off shops in markets in residential areas including Vasant Kunj on freehold basis for unrestricted use, permitting amalgamation and purchase of unlimited numbers of shops. On 17.10.2002 Mahipalpur Gram Sewa Samiti wrote to DDA in continuation of their requests regarding entitlements, especially to work places, of village residents to stake a-priori claim and special disposal policy.
Mr P K Hota Vice-Chairman, DDA
Sub: DDA’s notice inviting applications for shops in DDA markets in Vasant Kunj: Request for special disposal policy / priority for village residents in view of Master Plan provisions for integration of villages and for development of work places for their residents in the vicinity Ref: Our letter of 10 September 2002 requesting a comprehensive scheme for implementation of Master Plan entitlements of residents of Mahipalpur, outstanding since 1962
We have learned of a DDA scheme in which shops in DDA markets are being offered through an open disposal policy. The notice says that the scheme permits also amalgamation of small shops. This, naturally, will make the applications quite competitive. Given the kind of usage, dominated by large corporate and even MNC establishments in local shopping centres here, it does seem extremely unlikely that your scheme will benefit local commerce.
In our letter under reference, in which we have requested a comprehensive scheme for Mahipalpur village to implement various Master Plan provisions for our benefit, we have mentioned hat the type of commercial development that DDA is carrying out here has affected us in two ways:
DDA’s scheme, instead of correcting these mistakes is going to repeat them to our disadvantage. We really see no reason why it should be put to use for benefit of others while our entitlements under the Master Plan have still to be implemented. We request you, therefore, to ensure that in all further development and disposal of commercial space in Vasant Kunj:
We request you, accordingly, to kindly hold this scheme for disposal of commercial space in Vasant Kunj in abeyance till DDA has worked out a clear disposal policy in which existing shops and village residents are given priority as required by the Master Plan.
We look forward to your views on disposal policy for our benefit as per the Plan. Thanking you,
President, Gram Sewa Samiti
On 30.10.2002 residents of villages, old bastis, flats and hawkers filed a joint PIL WP 6980/2002 against such liberal disposal of commercial facility space. The para relating to entitlements of villagers in the petition is as follows. The matter is sub-judice.
9. Regarding (c) work place related provisions, in general, the Master Plan seeks to optimise workplace-residence relation so as to minimise transportation needs. As such, commercial centres in residential areas are also ideally suited for employment opportunities for resident population and disposal of planned space in them should accord priority to local residents. In case of residential areas near urban villages, etc, commercial centres also provide practically the only option for implementing Master Plan provisions for spatio-economic integration of old developments into new development. In this regard, the 1962 Plan states:
(Master Plan for Delhi, 1962, p.27)
The 1990 Plan says:
(Master Plan for Delhi, 1990, p.7)
These provisions point to the desirability of giving priority in disposal of planned commercial space, the only work place provision in residential development as per the Master Plan, to village residents whose agricultural lands have been acquired and livelihoods disrupted for this development. DDA’s schemes for commercial centres in residential areas need to take this into account, especially since it is a widely observed phenomena that village residents do set up unauthorised shops in the absence of planned development of work places for them as per the Master Plan.
In April 2003 the Chief Minister announced extension of government's bhagidari scheme to villages. Mahipalpur Samiti wrote to ask to be included.
Smt Sheila Dikshit Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi / Chairperson Bhagidari Bhagidari Cell, CMO Delhi Government Secretariat IP Estate, New Delhi – 110002
Sub: Request for details of Bhagidari scheme for villages
In October 2002 we had written to Mr Haroon Yusuf, with copy to your office, to request bhagidari in our village in the context of Hon’ble Minister’s announcement of restoration of historic water bodies in villages. (We have a historic johad for the conservation of which we have been making sincere but unsuccessful efforts for long). In January 2003 DDA Commissioner Planning Vijay Risbud (suspended after CBI raids) also assured us bhagidari for village development, but no action was taken subsequently. We have also been taking up with area representatives problems of water, sewage outfall, etc, which remain unresolved.
In this context, we welcome your announcement to extend bhagidari to all citizens’ groups in Delhi. Kindly let us know the terms and conditions and eligibility criteria for joining the government’s bhagidari scheme.
Looking forward to hearing from your office at the earliest,
In April 2003 newspapers reported constitution of a committee by MoUD to look into problems of urban villages. The Samiti wrote to DDA to ask for basis of studies and committees in place of implementation of entitlements.
Vice Chairman, DDA
Sub:Comprehensive scheme for implementation of long overdue Master Plan entitlements Ref: News reports on 03.04.03 about MoUD’s committee to solve problems of villages and our numerous letters, objections in response to Public Notice, court case, etc, since 2001.
The reports under reference say a committee has been set up by MoUD to find ways to solve problems of villages. We fail to see why that is necessary since ways already exist in the statutory Master Plan. Permit us to outline our ‘case’:
1. Problems. Mahipalpur is a historic village. In ‘80s DDA started Vasant Kunj. Master Plan requires integrating villages in new development by conservation / development of settlement and facilities and workplaces nearby (p.7). But nothing was done for Mahipalpur in DDA development, which has created problems for us. Sewage from Vasant Kunj flows to Mahipalpur. Over-exploitation of ground water has created a crisis. DDA’s failure to develop EWS plots and small shops has led to these coming up in villages and failure to develop facilities, etc, for the village has also added to congestion. Our johad is being encroached and historic buildings are being destroyed.
2. Efforts. Since 2001, when we learned of Master Plan entitlements and realised all our problems are the result of their non-implementation, we have been seeking a comprehensive scheme:
3. Studies. In 1997 and again in 2001 government has surveyed our johad. Yet in June 2002, DDA SE spoke of survey. In July 2002 it was reported that MCD was also planning studies in five villages, including ours. Other studies were also underway. In our letter of 10.09.02 we mentioned these and, since they made no reference to the Plan, asked assurance that they would not lead to delaying or downsizing entitlements. Now MoUD has set up a committee to find solutions that already exist by statute, which DDA is refusing to implement even on request, even as it is using up land needed for them for unplanned development.
We see no basis for land acquired from us for planned development to be put to unplanned uses while our Plan entitlements are outstanding. CBI’s recent findings clearly suggest that there is no bonafide basis. In view of all our efforts we request immediate attention to our request for a comprehensive scheme for implementation of our Plan entitlements before more studies and committees make this impossible on account of needed land having been ‘lost’.
cc: CBI - Officer in charge of DDA investigations
In mid-May 2003 there were news reports about court directions for a report about 508 traditional water structures. Mahipalpur Samiti wrote to seek clarification about status of their historic water structures in this list.
Vice Chairman DDA Vikas Sadan, INA, New Delhi
Sub: Request for clarification about High Court orders regarding water bodies Ref: News reports of 14 & 15.05.03 and our letter of 10.04.03
News reports state that on 31.03.03 Hon’ble High Court had directed MCD and DDA to clear encroachments in and around water bodies and has now directed the NGO Intach to file a report by August about how 508 water bodies that it has identified can be revived.
In continuation of the letter under reference and previous correspondence summarized therein, we request you to let us know:
We also reiterate our request for development scheme.
Thanking you and looking forward to hearing from you,
cc: Commissioner, MCD
(with request also for information about status / outcome / recommendations of studies in urban villages, including Mahipalpur, that MCD had promised in news reports in July 2002)
In June 2002, with rainwater harvesting picking up in the area and illegal ground water withdrawal having started on the site of DDA's illegal Sultangarhi scheme, the Samiti wrote to CGWA to draw attention to Mahipalpur's historic water structures and seek intervention. In October 2002 the copy of its letter following Delhi government's announcements about village johads and ponds was forwarded by MPISG to CGWA.
Dr A N Bhowmick Member Secretary, Central Ground Water Authority A2 W3 Curzon Road Barracks, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi – 110 001
Sub: Ground water problem and potential in Mahipalpur village
This is to bring to your kind attention the following:
Looking forward to a positive and early response,
President, Gram Sewa Samiti (Regd)
- 1. http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=57651
- 2. Sultangarhi Collective objections in response to Public Notice, 24 September 2002
- 3. http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=53959
- 4. http://cities.expressindia.com/archivefullstory.php?newsid=24030&creation_date=2002-07-21
- 5. http://cities.expressindia.com/archivefullstory.php?newsid=20295&creation_date=2002-06-13