On 28.07.2003 Central Government announced Delhi Master Plan guidelines. On 31.07.2003 DDA posted these on its website to invite public comment. Within a fortnight the guidelines are being called new Master Plan, for which credit was claimed at poll campaign launches of both Congress and BJP. And Delhi's Statehood Bill has also boiled down to one mainly for shifting control of DDA from centre to state.
All this is closely connected to land acquired over 40 years in Delhi and vested in DDA for development according to the Plan. Intrinsic to the purpose of land policy and the Act by which DDA was created, Delhi Master Plan is a document of citizens' entitlements that cannot be abandoned or substituted and may be revised only by due process of law.
Nevertheless, the consensus on control of DDA, central to the Statehood discussion1, is matched by a consensus against the Master Plan - a dangerous combination because the Plan is really all that stands between public land remaining a public resource and becoming private property of those otherwise in control of DDA. All this is not just about subversion of equitable and sustainable planned development; this is about skirting in ways that undermine democracy accountability about use of an enormous amount of public land.
That such is happening barely four months after the expose of the sensational DDA scam merits a good hard look at what is going on in central government that currently has control of DDA, Delhi government that has been clamouring for this control and is now poised to get it, and quality of civil society discourse that occupies space meant for citizens' participation. Most urgently, however, it merits response to say NO.
The guidelines - since they started it all and since DDA has solicited comment on them - provide a window of opportunity to respond. So far this window has been cluttered by those commenting on content of the guidelines, which is irresponsible - not least of all because it is not possible to make informed comment as the guidelines do not provide any information, only opinion, and most of all because their legal basis remains unclear. But this window can be used also to question anarchical ways of law making and demand answers to questions already raised and clarification of status of lawful Plan revision.
Indeed, the guidelines present a rare opportunity to make the simple point of saying NO to willful anarchy. They do so for several reasons apart from political topicality or universal threat. One, constitutional basis for announcement of guidelines is unclear2 Two, legal basis for inviting comment on them is unclear3 Three, guidelines of 2003 are no different from recommendations of 19994 which does place a question mark on the lawful Plan revision process during 1999-2003 especially in view of the CBI expose of corruption at Master Plan minding levels in DDA in March 2003. Four, comments / suggestions and objections about nearly all the guidelines have already been made in 1999-20035 including through legal and judicial processes. These techno-legal objections await responses and demand answer now also to the question why comments informally called from some are more worthy on any grounds other than endorsement seeking or criticism weakening. And a crack in another door to do so also exists inasmuch as a Standing Parliamentary Committee6 had invited and did receive by 10.07.2003 views of the public on the functioning of DDA. All that is going on does require the Committee's examination to be completed first, also since Parliament has not quite discussed the DDA scam.
Information about any engagement on accountability is invited
- 1. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mpisgplanner/message/37
- 2. Inviting of comments on 'guidelines': by what lawful procedure?
Delhi Development Authority was created for development of Delhi according to Plan under Delhi Development Act of 1957, an Act of Parliament.
- 3. Sub: Requests apropos Master Plan ‘guidelines’ on which comments have been invited
- 4. Guidelines’ of 2003 and ‘Recommendations’ of 1999: a Cursory Comparison
- 5. Previous requests apropos approach to public participation consistent with quality and accountability entitlements guaranteed by due process of plan revision as set out in the plan and act
In October 1999 newspapers reported that at the seminar that made recommendations for new Plan LG had ‘conceded the concept of NCR had failed’ and ‘instead’ mooted a proposal for three new modern cities as counter-magnets.
- 6. sub: urgent request for personal hearing by standing parliamentary committee in view of announcement of master plan ‘guidelines’ by moud on 28.07.03