(Imminent) NCMP subversion: Industries

With less than a month to go before the four month deadline for start of closure of industries failing any other option for them, government has finally revealed its plans for compliance of Supreme Court order of 07.05.04 – through unlawful closure rather than through enforcement of statutory solutions

According to news reports yesterday (Hindustan Times and Asian Age, 11.08.04) a high-level meeting on Saturday (07.08.04) has decided to start closing industrial units on 08.09.04. On 04.08.04, Asian Age had quoted Chief Minster telling Delhi Assembly the previous day, "DDA has agreed to change land use for residential areas with more than 70 per cent industrial units" and "we have also asked the Union urban development ministry to give its consent and which would be done shortly". Even after Supreme Court comprehensively rejected the regularization idea that has precluded any solution to the industries imbroglio ever since CM first mooted it in 1999, three out of the four months between the Court order and the first closure deadline have again been wasted on it. What CM told the Assembly was contrary to a Public Notice for industries as well as a letter (about note on Delhi Master Plan (DMP) solution for compliance having been forwarded to DDA VC) issued by her government the previous day. It was, as obvious from the high-level decision of four days later, not informed by central government or DDA or Monitoring Committee. It was, in any case, mindless of the fact that DMP modification requiring Public Notice can not possibly be made (lawfully) in time for the closure deadlines. CM, in effect, made a baseless misleading statement in Assembly on a serious matter, demonstrating an inertial approach contrary to, besides her responsibilities, NCMP promises.

HT report says “Delhi government has also decided to give incentive to those who are willing to shift”, which amounts to admittance of contempt of Court direction to announce incentives in six weeks (from 07.05.04), and “immediate action will be taken against those who have been allocated plots but have not shifted. There are about 10,000 such industries.” Asian Age report also says that those who have made full payments for plots in Bawana “will not be refunded their money under any circumstances” and “should take possession before September 7”. This has nothing to do with deadline of 07.09.04 which is not for 10000 units that have made full payment for plots in Bawana but for extensive (F-category) units, which cannot legally shift to Bawana where maximum plot size is reportedly 250 sqm whereas minimum permissible plot size for extensive units is 400 sqm.

Indeed, Bawana is “non-conforming area” of excessive industrial concentration in terms of statutory DMP standards for location and scale. Asian Age report of 11.08.04 says that the high-level decision of 07.08.04 “was taken to save the Delhi government’s ambitious industrial relocation exercise involving Rs 1,000 crores in Bawana and other parts of the city. The exercise had suffered heavily as most of the allottees had started withdrawing their funds seeing the possibility of regularisation of 24 more areas”. If this is so, then what has been going on is nothing short of deviousness to force-sell an illegal scheme, including by misuse of a Supreme Court order that, among other things, reiterates that an illegality would not become legality with connivance of government.

CM reportedly also told the Assembly on 03.08.04 that “problem of non-polluting home industries too will be solved once they are declared as household industries” and according to HT report the high-level meeting of 07.08.04 “was called after the Union Urban Development Ministry communicated its decision that 18 of the 41 types of industries suggested by the Delhi government will not be included in the household category”. This is odd, since that decision was clearly communicated to all vide MoUD Public Notice of 21.06.04, published in newspapers on 02.07.04, for modification of DMP to add 23 (not 41) types of industries to the ones permitted as household Industries in DMP.

About the 23 types being added to DMP A-category list of 67, which HT reports refers to as the “only ” and Asian Age accurately as “additional”, both speak of them as household units, units permitted in residential areas and allowed. This is unclear. A-category is a list not of industries to somehow be accommodated by homes, but of industries that could be allowed in homes if already existing as such in 1990 and, thereafter, accommodated in, besides planned industrial space, planned commercial and mixed use pockets and also permitted in homes subject to differential restrictions. While the reports suggest that government has added 23 entries to DMP A-category for benefit of industries, they do not mention the necessary gazette notification, which might not have been issued since objections filed in response to Public Notice might not have been disposed off (they certainly have not been heard). Even if there is a notification, the 23 so-called additions are illusory, 14 being duplicate / overlapping entries or trades rather than industry and 7 remaining also in other categories. In effect, only 2 unambiguous additions have been proposed / made (Aluminium hanger (excluding wire drawing and anodizing) and Ayurvedic / homoeopathic medicines) vide MoUD Public Notice of 21.06.04, which has other defects and problems as well.

In the context of these so-called household or residential area industry types, the HT report further says, “Floor mills, dry cleaning shops, motor vehicle repair workshops, printing press, pappad manufacturing units, shoe making, optical and lens preparation will not be allowed in residential areas”. This is extremely odd. Pappad making and leather footwear are in DMP A-category list of 67 (at item # 46 and # 35 respectively). Flour mills using up to 6 kw power are allowed in local shopping in residential areas (DMP table indicating permissibility, p.11) and up to 3 kw power also in mixed use premises (ie, residential plots, Clause-10). Dry cleaning is not industrial but service commercial use, permitted, like post-1990 A-category industrial units, in designated mixed use and commercial premises in residential areas. Auto repair workshops are, likewise, commercial and not industrial use, permitted in designated service centres, though DDA filed in January 2003 in High Court an obviously false affidavit claiming they are permitted also elsewhere in residential areas. Now government seems inclined to use the court’s orders to shut whatever it pleases or whatever displeases it.

The all-round indifference to the anarchical situation is evident, besides in CM’s irresponsible remarks in Assembly on 03.08.04, in omissions and commissions of officials that Supreme Court has appointed to a Monitoring Committee, which has to file a progress report by 31.08.04. No meetings of this Committee have been reported. Delhi Government Chief Secretary seems not to be monitoring even mutually conflicting statements and notices emanating from Delhi government. MCD Commissioner seems to have been making plans for after closure of industrial units in residential areas, with ideas for licensing commercial units in them (regardless of scathing remarks of the court against its illegal licensing of industrial units). And DDA VC, continuing to be guided by the so-called DMP 2021 “guidelines” that the judgment has adversely remarked on, has been busy with less pressing matters, including foreign trips for ideas for Games of 2010 on riverbed, etc, than with industries headed for unlawful closure in coming months in the name of river, etc. Police Commissioner, presumably, sees his role only in terms of providing force to authorities for evictions and closures regardless of whether these are legal. None of them have cared to respond to detailed suggestions for compliance of the order based on DMP through the DMP solution consistent also with NCMP rather than through messy closure. Neither NAC nor Secretary MoUD has cared to respond to doubts about legality of compliance in any other way. Even suggestion – made as part of s.11A response to the Public Notice of 21.06.04 for a patently ill-considered DMP modification in disregard of statutory DMP processes – for public debate on government’s overall plan for compliance to ensure it is better than the option of compliance through the DMP solution has elicited no response. Requests for meeting with / report of DMP 2021 expert group on industries have also been ignored.

How all this is consistent with the solemn pledge that UPA has made in NCMP and NCMP commitments for manufacturing and employment and policy papers that NAC was to prepare to discuss on 31.07.04 and what MoUD might have told PM at the review of NCMP implementation on 10.08.04 remain a mystery. What has become crystal clear, in the week before Independence Day, is that weight of inertia outweighs all promises of change in the capital and that the industries imbroglio is inertially adrift towards lawlessness in name of court and whatnot – in same drift that lately killed children evicted to Bawana and cows evicted from streets in name of court and whatnot.