It is not easy, even in the capital of the world's largest democracy, for "little people" to engage with their governments without the help of a politician, celebrity, NGO, donor... For hawkers it is even more difficult. Unlike, say, slum dwellers they are not all in one place where it is easy to nurture and demonstrate collective strength and this leaves them more vulnerable to persecution, including reprisal for standing up against it.
It was, therefore, with some reservation that I approached a few of them in January 2001 to tell them about Master Plan provisions for them. I was overwhelmed by their reaction. It was not the first time that I was making a planner's effort to inform citizens about their spatial rights under the Master Plan. But it was the first time that the information I had to offer them was instantly seen as evidence of betrayal by the state that enthusiastically implements laws for removal while keeping law for settling under wraps. In their angst I saw how little we see about problems of hawkers in antiseptic academic work discussed in sanitised seminar environs. I also saw that if these men would engage, for many of them it would not be a struggle just for a hawking pitch but for justice.
In the months that followed they wrote letters and post cards, commissioned a report and held a press conference, met and received assurances from senior officials, staged a demonstration to demand action and even made some extraordinary efforts in support of Master Plan implementation. I have learned much from the tenacity and resilience with which the dozen odd men who spearheaded the efforts of Vasant Kunj's hawkers against usual and unusual odds and consider it a privilege that they appointed me their professional planning consultant. This part of this chronicle is really the story of these men who I do believe understand good governance better than all of us, having seen bad governance so long and so close.
Ordinary efforts of ordinary people (February to May 2001)
In January 2001, there was a newspaper report  on the announcement of a hawker-removal drive by the Lieutenant Governor (LG), who is the ex-officio Chairman of DDA. I called up a few newspapers to draw attention to Master Plan provisions that DDA was mandated to implement. On January 5 the Times of India, a leading national daily, carried a report on these.
As a resident of Vasant Kunj I was familiar with the area and, as a planner, aware that Master Plan provisions for hawkers had not been implemented here. I carried out a rough inventory of the developed markets and other places in Vasant Kunj that could have space for hawkers under the Plan. And, with the help of some friends from a nearby slum, I also carried out an unobtrusive count of the hawkers on the roads outside the gated pockets of flats here. Prima facie, it appeared that it was possible to accommodate all existing hawkers here in markets close to their present locations under the provisions of the Master Plan. With no risk of conflict among hawkers on this count, I felt quite comfortable giving some of them a brief note on the Master Plan provisions meant for them and the suggestion that they write to the LG to seek their implementation before any substantive removal action is effected. I also suggested that they try and do this in groups around DDA markets. And also that they should send copies of their letters to the Vice-Chairman, DDA (the executive head) as well as to the municipal commissioner / zonal deputy commissioner and police commissioner / local station house officer (SHO) for holding removal action in abeyance pending DDA processing their request.
In February 2001 over 300 hawkers in Vasant Kunj wrote to the LG with copies to the others. When some of them mentioned their initiative to the local (hafta collecting) police and municipal functionaries, the latter laughed at them and asked what made them think that the LG and senior officials had time to waste on letters from the likes of them. Some of the groups that had written then got back to me for suggestions. I requested them to appoint me their consultant for a nominal fee but through a formal contract so that I could engage on the matter in my professional capacity. Eventually all groups entered into such contracts with me. On February 23 the hawkers sent a joint reminder to the LG along with copies to the others. On February 27, on behalf of my clients, I also wrote to the Urban Development Minister, Jagmohan, not only because DDA comes under the central ministry but also on account of the Minister’s public stand in favour of Master Plan implementation.
Despite the initiative of the hawkers in trying to draw attention to Master Plan provisions meant for them, their harassment continued as before. They decided to follow up their correspondence on a single platform, calling it the Vasant Kunj Rehri Patri Vyapari Ekta Manch (Vasant Kunj Push-cart / Pavement Traders United Forum) (VKRPVEM) and started weekly meetings in a public park. On March 20 they sent hundreds of postcards – with the VKRPVEM stamp – to Jagmohan and to the LG. On March 23 I wrote on their behalf to the Vice-Chairman, DDA to request an interim letter to help stop the continuing harassment. On March 27 I wrote to the Deputy Commissioner in charge of our municipal Zone to request holding of removal action pending DDA’s response to my clients’ request.
Having waited for two months for any kind of response from anyone, in April we decided to prepare a comprehensive report to substantiate and support the requests for implementation of statutory provisions and for holding removal action in abeyance in the meanwhile. I asked my clients to prepare, based on discussions in groups operating in different places, notes on the history, routines, problems, etc, of hawking in Vasant Kunj.
Meanwhile, I refined my studies/inventories of DDA development in Vasant Kunj. Unfortunately, I had not been able to obtain a copy of the approved layout plan from DDA. However, it was possible to identify sites for markets, etc. Through inventories of shops in DDA markets and from boards showing their layout plans outside some of them, I was able to establish a number of things. Much of the shopping envisaged in the Plan has not yet been developed by DDA . Even in markets that have come up, many – if not most – shops are either lying closed or being used for activities other than local shopping . Master Plan norms notwithstanding, none of the formal shops are being used as low turnover shops (fruit/vegetable and service/repair) . Nor are any informal units operating from planned spaces in markets . Also, although the Plan clearly stipulates that provision for informal units has to ensured at the time of layout sanction, this appears not to have been done in the case of schools, hospitals, etc that have come up here . All this was used to write up the first part of the report – a description of Master Plan provisions in the context of Vasant Kunj. It applies the statutory norms to arrive at estimates of how much hawking activity was envisaged and where. It goes on to describe through photographs and inventory statistics the status of the sites where informal sector provision should have been made but has not. The contention is that it is actually mandatory for DDA, duty-bound to carry out development in accordance with the Master Plan, to act on my clients’ request.
I also refined the inventories of hawkers outside the gated pockets with details of type and location. It became clear that not only the extent (in terms of overall numbers) but also the type and locations of hawking activity here conform closely with what is anticipated in Master Plan norms . Prima facie, the "unplanned" and "illegal" status of hawkers here is the result purely of DDA’s indifferent Plan implementation. Based on discussions at weekly meetings on notes that my clients had prepared the range of problems being faced by and on account of them as a consequence was also outlined. Apart from the harassment that they faced at the hands of police and municipal functionaries under laws permitting removal of hawkers, several other problems came to light. Police constables play an important role in “allotting” hawking spaces against monthly payments. Whenever a hawker is away for a period of time, the rates have to be re-negotiated. Hawkers are often ‘forced’ by the local police to serve as witnesses on crimes / accidents that happen on the road. On the other hand, hawkers’ own complaints of thefts, etc are seldom entertained by the police station. It also came to light that the local police station, while enthusiastically harassing hawkers, has itself set up in violation of building bylaws a shack on the main road outside to serve as a ‘police canteen’. In addition to routine monthly payments, the municipal staff also ‘use’ hawkers to meet targets on other legal payments, irrespective of whether or not these have anything to do with the hawkers. For instance, municipal officers who levy fines under malaria control provisions or the ones assigned to fining people for littering under Court orders in 2000 routinely fined all hawkers, usually for nothing. Local DDA functionaries also extort monthly payments from hawkers in a classic case of abuse of powers that they do not even have. Several RWAs also charge hawkers annual charges for nothing. All these "extortionists" also act as bullies and freeloaders. Problems on account of hawkers, on the other hand, were not serious except at a busy T-junction on the main road passing through Vasant Kunj, where a fruit and vegetable market had sprung up and there was traffic congestion (even hazard). All this was used to write up the second part of the report whose contention was that besides being necessary, it was also, in view of problems being faced on account of DDA’s indifferent plan implementation, desirable for DDA to act on my clients’ request.
The third part of the report is about the efforts made so far by and on behalf of Vasant Kunj’s hawkers to secure Master Plan implementation. The contention was that besides being necessary and desirable, it was also, in view of their initiative, timely for DDA to act on my clients’ request.
The spatial studies of DDA markets and present locations of hawkers threw up two fortunate findings. One was that the numbers of hawkers near various markets was roughly the same as the number permitted in them under the Master Plan . The other was that either the markets were not yet developed or still had space to accommodate the necessary number of hawkers (even after the space obviously meant for informal units in approved plans had been sold off by DDA for formal shops in many cases). The last part of the report, therefore, was by way of fairly detailed proposals, including schematic drawings and pictures of various DDA markets, etc, to show where hawking spaces could still be accommodated as per the Master Plan. The contention was that besides being necessary, desirable and timely, it was also, in view of these proposals, possible for DDA to act on my clients’ request.
Having systematically argued that it was necesary, desirable, timely and possible for DDA to implement Master Plan provisions for hawkers in Vasant Kunj, the report went on to request space for hawking in line with the detailed proposals made in it.
It also requested DDA to inform the police, MCD and RWAs of the rights of hawkers under the Master Plan and to issue to VKRPVEM an interim letter to help stop harassment by others.
The report commissioned by VKRPVEM was delivered to the office of the Vice-Chairman, DDA on May 15, 2001 and its conclusions and requests were also sent to the Urban Development Minister and the LG, soliciting their intervention. (On May 29 a reminder letter was sent to the Vice-Chairman, with copies to the Minister and the LG).
On May 22 VKRPVEM called a press conference (in the park where it held its weekly meetings) to discuss its report. Its request for Master Plan implementation was subsequently reported in a few national dailies .
Encounters with the extraordinary policy dialogue (May to July 2001)
Around the time that VKRPVEM was preparing for its press conference, the Times of India group, which had carried a report on Master Plan provisions for hawkers in January, carried two pieces based on the work of Manushi on rickshaw pullers and hawkers . (Dilip Padgaonkar, the executive managing editor, incidentally, was a panelist on one of Manushi’s Lok-Sunwayis  and also mentioned as a "supporter" in its invitation to the October 2 protest rally). The authors of both these pieces were especially invited to VKRPVEM’s press conference, but could not come. VKRPVEM then wrote a rejoinder (excerpts from which are reproduced below). Unfortunately, this was also not carried.
“We believe we have little in common with rickshaw pullers beyond the nature of our interface with a state that is indifferent to our future and "predatory" in our present. On that basis, one could include most of the population in the same category. But we do not see how that would really help… We also wonder why questions about ways of integrating the informal sector into planned development are being asked here at all considering that no less than the statutory master plan for the country’s capital has answered them through its exhaustive provisions a decade ago... Being hawkers, we obviously understand the "predatory state" far better than NGOs and journalists. We also understand better that if the law that is meant to give us legal status is enforced then the "predatory state" will no longer be able to prey on us…. We do not wish to ask for tehbazari licenses without first earmarking the space where we might get these licenses without the danger of future conflicts… The licensing system was meant to be a "solution" to the performance–nuisance conflicts intrinsic to hawking. The "solution" has itself become problematic. We fail to see how either the universalisation of this problematic "solution" (by giving everybody tehebazari) or doing away with it (in the name of liberalisation) will solve the original problem... We wish, instead, to make the more sensible demand for implementation of existing statutory provisions meant for us. Obviously, we can afford the luxury of being sensible because we are under no pressure to appear to be glamorously original... If the Master Plan prepared on the basis of the city’s needs already has provisions that adequately address our problems, we see no reason for anyone to try and be original in providing solutions for us. All that our well-wishers need do is to support our demand for implementation of existing Master Plan provisions meant for our benefit...”
On May 29 some of my clients informally learned of a proposed removal drive the following day. Through the evening we kept trying to find out who had ordered it and who should be asked to hold it in abeyance. On the morning of May 30, I sent an urgent fax to the Vice-Chairman, DDA. Referring to the first request in the VKRPVEM report (“Kindly inform the Corporation and Police about Master Plan provisions for hawkers and restrain them from taking action against hawkers pending implementation of these provisions by DDA...”) I wrote:
“Mr Banerji, to whom my call to your office last evening was transferred, was “not aware of anything about hawkers” and said that “any one on DDA land can be removed” and “all this is not” his “domain”. The DC Nazafgarh, Mr KC Agarwal, and his AC, Mr Jai Bhagwan, had not heard anything from the DDA in this matter, nor were they aware of the Master Plan provisions... The DC said that nowadays removal action in Vasant Kunj is in compliance with court orders. I am unable to understand why the hon’ble Court’s orders are not used to take action against more glaring encroachments of "greed" (illegal shops and farmhouses and upcoming unauthorised colonies and, perhaps, even the MLA’s own office) instead of hawkers whose "encroacher" status is based in "need", besides in DDA’s own errors of omission. I was unable to speak with any police official or I would have asked how they felt about demolishing others’ khokhas even as they have set up their own... I urge you to ensure that removal action is not taken against those who have clearly expressed their willingness to abide by the law… Should the state respond to their initiative with removal vans even as other encroachers in Vasant Kunj – who have never expressed any interest in being law abiding – are left alone they are bound to lose faith in its claims of equality, participation and whatnot... I beg you, Sir, as vice-chairman of the capital’s development authority, to at least ensure that their faith in the Master Plan is somewhat preserved.”
I sent copies of this fax to the MCD Deputy Commissioner, the LG and the Minister, Jagmohan. On the morning of May 30, when I was again calling up whoever I could think of, someone in Jagmohan’s office advised me to go to Vigyan Bhawan, where the Minister was to address a national workshop on hawkers.
That was how my clients and I learned of the MoUD-SEWA national policy dialogue on street vendors.
I gave to my clients copies of the fax that I had sent and advised them to show it to any removal staff that came and tell them that the fax copy was being taken, along with our report, to the minister at the national workshop on street vendors.
When I reached the workshop (which was a one-and-a-half day affair that had started previous morning) the last ‘technical session’ was on. On the dais were Mary Johnson (who I later learned was Director, ILO), Joint Commissioner of Police, Amod Kanth and Former Chief Justice of India, A M Ahmedi. In the audience were some fairly prosperous looking hawkers and many others, presumably from the ministry and SEWA/NASVI, etc. The Joint Commissioner, who was in uniform, was saying he was here because of his NGO’s association with street children and was talking of police harassment – in terms not of what the police might do about it but of what NGOs might do in the context of its reality. He mentioned conflicts on account of MCD giving licenses in problematic locations from where police had to remove hawkers...
On top of a flier that we had used as our press release, I wrote, “Have Delhi Master Plan provisions for hawkers been discussed?” and went and handed it to Mary Johnson, who smiled at me. Justice Ahmedi also spoke of the need for planning provisions. I raised my hand, but it was time for tea.
Over tea, I asked several people the same question, but no one was interested. I asked if there were hawkers from Delhi here, but no one knew. I asked if there was anyone from DDA here, but no one was sure. On the table, where the workshop material was displayed, I found a copy of the draft recommendations and saw several points about provision for space for hawkers. The SEWA national coordinator was speaking with Justice Ahmedi. I asked her if she could spare a moment to look at our report, which speaks of provisions that already exist. She glanced at it and said this was a national workshop and maybe I should get in touch with NASVI to talk about a Delhi case at a Delhi workshop. I mentioned imminent – and possibly ongoing – removal of my clients and asked if there was anyone who I could speak with about that, but she couldn’t help...
The minister arrived and I handed him a copy of the report and the urgent fax, which he handed to some one else, who handed it to someone else. The draft recommendations were read out by the national coordinator of SEWA and approved by the Minister of MoUD . I raised my hand again, but the minister had to leave for a meeting of the Tenth Plan. I followed him out, but he was busy with the SEWA national coordinator, who was seeing him off. I requested his Secretary to please help by drawing the minister’s attention to our fax. I also said that it would look very bad if hawkers requesting implementation of existing Master Plan provisions were to be removed while the Minister known for his faith in the Plan endorsed the need for the same Plan provisions at a national workshop for hawkers...
By the time I returned, the removal vans had come and gone – without effecting removal. My clients did not know if they had anybody else or just themselves (with the copy of the urgent fax of the morning) to thank for that.
I called up the Vice-Chairman, DDA, in the context of the MoUD-SEWA workshop. He gave me an appointment for June 4.
I also wrote to the Minister. Referring to the fact that much of what had been recommended by the national workshop was already embodied in law at least in Delhi, I wrote:
“It is ironical that even as "experts" and NGOs were agreeing that what is already part of the capital’s Master Plan for ten years "should be", the hawkers who have, for four months now, been requesting the implementation of the same were being visited by a removal van... In view of the recommendations of the Ministry’s national workshop, I would like to most humbly suggest that implementation of Master Plan provisions for hawkers in Delhi be taken up in the manner of a "drive" so that "proposals" mooted at the workshop (ten years after Delhi’s Master Plan) can be "piloted" before they are extrapolated to national policy or the Tenth Plan... For the hawkers of Vasant Kunj I only ask yet again that the MCD and the Police be appraised of Master Plan provisions in general and, in this case, of the fact that the hawkers deserve to be left alone till DDA has responded to their detailed proposals… I would be extremely grateful for any thing in writing that can provide relief against arbitrary removal under one law even as implementation of another has been requested...”
In the meeting with the Vice-Chairman, DDA on June 4 there was agreement on earmarking space for hawkers according to statutory norms (which are clearly spelt out in the Master Plan) and on working out a system for allotting and monitoring (which, unfortunately, is only implicitly outlined in the Plan). We had some discussion on possibilities in regard to the latter and the Vice-Chairman asked me to summarise my suggestions and send him a letter for follow-up. Accordingly, on June 5 I sent him a fax to say:
“...From my understanding of the discussion, I think we concur on two broad issues as follows: (1) Earmarking space for informal sector units, on which Master Plan provisions are very clear, allowing: (a) weekly markets in LSCs, community centres, etc on closed days, (b) other units (subject of our report) in commercial areas and other places as well; (2) Evolving a system for allocating and monitoring (including checking misuse of) the earmarked space, on which the Master Plan, unfortunately, is not very clear. It does, however, seem obvious that the Master Plan does not envisage for informal units the same system as for formal commerce as: it speaks of informal sector engaging the poor (implying different "cost recovery"), it speaks of it engaging migrants and its role (implying "permanence" of use rather than of user), it speaks of limitations of tehbazari and of harassment of informal sector traders (implying need for an alternative system that can achieve greater coverage and is less prone to exploitation). In view of the above an arrangement for medium or long-term license against nominal fee with conditions for type of unit(s) (in terms of both product/service as well as physical configuration and maintenance) permissible on each earmarked site appears to be in order. For operationalising this: (a) License terms for various types of sites will have to be worked out and transparently communicated to hawkers, residents / customers, shopkeepers (in case of sites in markets) and the police / MCD. The transparency, hopefully, will check harassment. As long as a unit is operating in the right place in the right manner it should not be subject to any harassment; (b) Residents or their associations and/or shopkeepers or their associations can be expected to monitor misuse. They could, where feasible, be involved in collection of license fees, which they could use for maintenance or make over to the authorities for the same. However, if the hawkers have any grievance against the residents / shopkeepers / associations, there should be an identified mechanism for redress; (c) If the licensee misuses the site by plying a trade that is not permitted there or by building a structure in excess of the physical configuration permissible, the license should be cancelled by a duly prescribed process. Subletting the permitted unit to another trader, however, needs to be viewed differently because it is common for these traders to leave their unit in charge of others for short periods when they are indisposed or called away to their village, etc. Of course, subletting also happens for commercial gain but that is also the case in formal allotments and, in this case, does not take away from the performance worth of the site as long as other conditions are complied with.
I also reiterated our request for something in writing to help stop harassment by others while DDA processed the matter. Soon afterwards I received a call from the office of DDA’s Commissioner (Planning) inviting us for a meeting. On June 21 a few of my clients and I went to meet him and his officers. They all (my co-professionals, being planners) were highly appreciative of our report. The Commissioner told us that it might not be possible to accommodate hawkers on the site for the community centre (which was as yet undeveloped and could have 110 hawkers under the Plan) as the same had been handed over to Delhi Government for construction of a cyber centre. I asked how could such a decision have been taken since a cyber centre is hardly a use appropriate in a residential area for just 100,000 people and considering that activities envisaged in a community centre (shops, offices, hawkers) have come up in an illegal and problematic manner already. He only said that a cyber centre would be “a feather in Vasant Kunj’s cap” and suggested that we might like to consider another site, earmarked for "Other Community Facilities". I asked who were we to consider taking land meant for something else for ourselves and an officer of his said that, in any case, that site had been given to Madhya Pradesh Government. I asked how exactly did that fall within the ambit of the definition of "other community facilities" considering that a "community" was clearly defined in the Master Plan as the local resident population of 100,000. But DDA officials (planners) felt we should confine our discussion to the matter of hawkers. Finally they promised us that they would shortly have hawking space marked and boards installed in DDA’s convenient and local shopping centres and that they would look into our other requests (for space in community centre and outside schools, hospitals, gates, etc as per Master Plan norms). They also promised a letter.
Meanwhile, I had also sent a copy of my urgent fax of May 30 to the Chairman of the Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj. I had had a few meetings with the Federation about the Master Plan and its implications for residents of Vasant Kunj and they had written to DDA about, for instance, the integration of the illegal shops around the community centre site into the scheme for it. On May 31 the Chairman had written to the Vice Chairman DDA with reference to my fax to say:
“We believe that hawkers in Vasant Kunj provide useful services to flat residents. Their haphazard location, however, sometimes becomes problematic. If there are statutory provisions through which they can be systematically located this should be done immediately.”
Subsequently I had drawn the Chairman’s attention to the fact that several RWAs charged hawkers money for "passes" and, apart from the fact that RWAs had no constitutional authority to do so, this was not in the interest of residents as the hawkers naturally passed this cost on to customers. I had requested that the Federation raise this matter with member RWAs. In the last week of June, the Federation Chairman called to tell me that the monthly meeting of the Federation was scheduled for June 30 and if we had received anything in writing from DDA I should send a copy so that the matter could be included in the meeting agenda.
I called the office of the Commissioner (Planning) to request that the promised letter be sent to us in time for the Federation meeting, to no avail. After the meeting the Federation Chairman told me that another meeting of RWAs for some specific matter was scheduled on July 7 and if we had a letter by then, they could still take up the matter. I called and on June 5 sent a fax to the Commissioner (Planning) to request a letter. I also mentioned that on account of some fencing work, local DDA staff were removing some hawkers and requested that the matter of allocation of space for these, at least, be processed expeditiously.
But, despite the assurances from the Vice-Chairman and the Commissioner (Planning), neither a letter nor any action on the ground was forthcoming.
In response to repeated phone calls, the Commissioner (Planning) eventually told me that that “the LG has some other ideas for hawkers in Delhi”. This may have been the outcome of the CVC’s letter following the efforts of Manushi.
A demonstration to demand Master Plan implementation (July 5 to September 5, 2001)
On July 5, 2001 residents of Rangpuri Pahari, a 50-year old "slum" at the edge of Vasant Kunj began a demonstration outside DDA’s Master Plan Office (which had started functioning out of a block of six flats in DDA’s latest and as yet unoccupied pocket of flats here). Exactly a year ago, on July 5, 2000, DDA had bulldozed, without any notice, 50 houses in their settlement of about 600 families. Since then they had been writing to DDA to request implementation of Master Plan provisions for cheap plots in Vasant Kunj, but had received no response. Two other slums next to them that had the same history and had also written to DDA soon joined them to seek response to their requests for implementation of Master Plan provisions for low income housing. On behalf of students and parents, the resident’s Samiti in Rangpuri Pahari had commissioned me to prepare a report on Master Plan provisions for schools on the lines of the report prepared for my hawker clients. This had been sent to DDA and others in June and to this also there had been no response. The forum of students and parents also joined the demonstration to seek response to their request for implementation of Master Plan provisions for school education for the poor.
On July 18 VKRPVEM wrote to the Vice-Chairman, DDA with reference to harassment and threats of removal by DDA functionaries (in addition to continuing harassment by others). They requested, in addition to (and yet again) an interim letter, (1) that space be earmarked in convenient/local shopping centres as per the assurance given on June 21 and (2) that DDA clarify its stand on their request for implementation of Master Plan provisions elsewhere, especially since 110 units on the site for Community Centre were "not possible" according to it. In the absence of any response or action whatsoever from DDA, on July 27, 2001 VKRPVEM wrote to say that Vasant Kunj’s hawkers were forced to join others demonstrating outside the Master Plan office to seek Master Plan implementation. And on July 29, after trying otherwise for 6 months, the hawkers also took to the pavement outside DDA’s Master Plan office to wait for an interim letter.
The demonstration (by residents of three old slums, the forum of slum students / parents and the forum of hawkers) that went on from July 5 to September 5, 2001 outside DDA’s Master Plan office in Vasant Kunj was "different’ from many citizens" protests in many ways. Firstly, it was apolitical. Halfway through it the demonstrators did write to all the leaders whose rallies they had been taken to in the recent past, but only for support by way of letters to DDA. Support by way of presence on the pavement was sought / accepted only from the duly elected representatives – the Congress MLA and the BJP Councilor in September by when it had become absolutely clear that DDA was not at all interested in what was going on outside its office. Secondly, the demonstration was not a "class struggle". The demonstrators had the support of numerous flat residents who signed their support register mostly out of enlightened self-interest. Through the Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj, even flat residents were engaging with DDA to ensure that development in Vasant Kunj conforms to the approved layout plan. Many of them saw a synergy between their interest and that of the "other half" of Vasant Kunj. Thirdly, and most importantly, this was not a protest against the establishment but in support of the Master Plan and, thereby, the notion of planned development. No one was asking for any violations to be regularised out of humaneness or whatever, only for their rights under the statutory Plan. In the midst of all the Plan-bashing going on in Delhi, here were thousands of (poor) people saying Yes to the Plan on key issues concerning them, thereby pulling the rug from under the feet of those claiming that the Plan was anti-poor.
For two whole months, people took turns to sit out on the pavement in sweltering heat or pouring rain to tirelessly repeat slogans that told their stories. Hawkers, for instance, mainly repeated: (Translated)
The existing Master Plan is just fine. It leaves room for every one. But the poor Plan can’t work by itself. And our DDA – it does something else. 6 months of reminding them the Plan of theirs. Like trying to wake Kumbhkaran, asleep 10 years. Those who can’t respond to a report with a letter... what are they cooking up inside we wonder... Mr BK Jain Sir do step out awhile. And listen to VKRPVEM’s tale. Master Plan provisions for us are all there. But what to do about your intent that is unfair. Since February we’ve written many letters. But when did you all see responsibility towards us? We commissioned a report, called a press conference. Met your officers, got their assurance. We are obliged that DDA at least conceded, Master Plan provisions need to be implemented. You’d said you’d put up boards in markets. And send us a letter to help stop our harassment. A month ago you made that promise fine. Your men are removing us – changed your mind? Such haste in taking 6 flats to make a new Plan, such lethargy in implementing the existing one... Mr BK Jain Sir do step out a while. Look at the mockery made of the Plan. In connivance with some big big men, a Janata Market was made in D2 by you all. Where was the need to separately do this, when the Plan talks of space all over for us. For years that odd market is lying unused, and in C9 etc for big shops our space was misused. Now some said we are next to Community Centre Site. The Plan allows 110 of us to be inside. The Centre’s yet to be made, we are less than 110. Let us move back 10-20 yards then. This little much DDA couldn’t do as per Plan, it had sold the site for a Cyber Centre with elan. Mr Jain Sir you forget the Plan and working on it, your DDA is going to do whatever pleases it... Mr BK Jain Sir do step out a while. Tell us what happened in a meeting 2 years ago. You asked an NGO for proposals for the new plan. Had you forgotten ones in the existing plan? What do these NGOs have that we don’t? You invite schemes from them, don’t read our report. We heard that NGO this year hit the limit. It demanded from scratch provisions that exist. And we hear more research on us is also on… After all, DDA’s making a new Plan. SPA and HUDCO, premier in the country, are going to do research that’s quite unnecessary. Why don’t you explain to these researchers, provisions they seek are in the Plan for 10 years. Or is it that in this sort of thing you have a share? Is it that the whole new plan is such an affair...
One had thought that it would have brought the smile back on the face of DDA planners sitting inside DDA Master Plan office to see right outside their windows such an open and spontaneous display of public faith in the Master Plan. And one had thought that DDA planners might actually have felt grateful for such direct and timely feedback on the implementation of the Master Plan as they went about comprehensively revising it. But one had to perish these fanciful thoughts pretty soon.
On July 5 slum residents had started this demonstration – naively with paper banners – in the hope of soon having an opportunity to talk about the Master Plan with DDA’s planners. Within days it was clear that they were not going to see any planners come out to speak with them, smiling gratefully or otherwise. All that the men and women sitting inside DDA’s Master Plan office did, when they were not entirely ignoring them, was to peer furtively out of curtained windows and walk past them to buy cigarettes with smirking expressions on their faces – and repeatedly call the police. The last was entirely uncalled for since, in the two month long protest there was no incident of any sort of violence or even misbehaviour other than somewhat aggressive sloganeering by the children on one occasion. Indeed, although DDA repeatedly called the police, the police never did find any reason to stop or otherwise take action against those demonstrating.
As I watched, within a fortnight of the start of the demonstration, the paper banners change to fabric ones and durries and a garden umbrella get added to the paraphernalia that the demonstrators brought with them each morning, I felt extremely concerned. It seemed to me wrong that citizens should have to take time off to remind DDA of its job. It seemed to me wrong that DDA planners should behave like bara-babus and not even want to talk planning with people whom they are meant to plan for. It seemed to me wrong that public servants that had failed the public should call the police against the public when it asked for accountability. It seemed to me wrong that there was a clear and deliberate intent to misunderstand rather than even the semblance of an effort to understand what was going on here. Being just a planning consultant, there was little I could do beyond starting to sit out in support and writing letters to those who I thought would – or should – understand.
On July 19 I wrote to the Minister, Jagmohan:
“In a block of flats in Vasant Kunj DDA has set up an office where Delhi’s Master Plan is being revised to provide a blue print for the city’s development till 2021. (During the drive to demolish additions in DDA flats, all agreed such offices in flats were not to be tolerated, but I will let that pass). Master Plan credibility crashed in Delhi last year after several NGOs held a convention to brand the Plan anti-poor and gave themselves the mandate to prepare a people’s Plan. Faith in the Plan hit rock bottom when industrial workers raised slogans not against management but against Master Plan. Every other politician and NGO and "expert" in allied or unrelated professions has been badmouthing the Plan ever since. (I doubt if these good people realise that responsibility for ensuring the city grows according to Plan vests not just in DDA but in all development dons, but I will let that also pass). Through all this, Institute of Town Planners India and School of Planning all but played Nero while the quintessential basis of their existence all but burned. (I wonder why they are allowed to continue occupying prime sites or otherwise be supported, but I will let that also pass). At a time when Master Plans in many cities are being revised, these developments have brought us where no one in governance seriously "owns" the Master Plan – not plan making agencies, not planning and allied professions, not politicians, not civil politicians/NGOs. That then is the bird’s eye view in which, typically, only "big people" can be seen. What about the "little people" on whose behalf every one has made the Master Plan a favourite whipping boy? For a worm’s eye view I return to the pavement outside the DDA’s Master Plan office. Every day since the 5th of July 2001, in sweltering heat and pouring rain, four people have been sitting here in turns with a banner, tirelessly speaking into a microphone as endless groups of four walk past with more slogan emblazoned banners. Section-144 is operational. So it is in this manner that hundreds of men, women and children (without any politician, celebrity or NGO) are talking everyday about the Plan. And what they are saying is that the Plan is just fine and must be implemented... Interestingly, residents of surrounding DDA flats are coming out in support – not just out of charity but also out of enlightened self-interest. Flat walas seem to have figured out that removal of hawkers is likely to hurt rather than serve their interests... distant relocation will damn the slum dwellers, but it will doubly damn them… In general, the flat dwellers have figured out that the real cause of their problems relating to water, electricity and parking is DDA’s penchant for real estate development in the name of planned development. ...It does seem that people think differently from the people who think on their behalf. Slum dwellers think the Master Plan offers the best deal on housing, slum children think it offers the best deal on school education, hawkers think it offers the best deal on livelihood support, and flat dwellers think it offers the best deal on solving infrastructure problems. I wonder on whose behalf and on what grounds, then, are the "big people" bashing the Plan. And why? Is it because it is more convenient and profitable to debate it than to implement it? Or are their half-baked but very loud ideas intended to reduce the Master Plan currently being revised to a party cake and the bread for the poor – even middle – class to crumbs? ...what has taken even me by surprise is DDA’s utter indifference to what is happening outside its Master Plan office at a time when participation, responsiveness, transparency, accountability, etc have become the best buzz words and when feedback on Master Plan implementation should be especially welcome. I find it particularly embarrassing as a planner that there are mostly planners in this particular DDA office, behaving in such an ostrich-like manner. DDA may fancy itself as a bird with long legs but would do well to remember the city sees it only as a willful and lazy white elephant fed and fattened at public expense. It would also do well to remember that no less than our President has reminded us that the patience of the poor is running out. If this (sensible by any standards) protest has been peaceful so far, it is only because their patience has not actually run out. And because no morally and intellectually bankrupt politician or NGO or celebrity has seen a vote banking or note banking or shot banking potential in it – yet. I have often written to you to beg – on behalf of "little people" or as a despairing professional. But the "little people" proudly standing outside the Master Plan office to remind DDA of its job have reminded me that the People of India are supreme and should not beg. I am sending this only for your information.
On July 17, with reference to my reports on hawkers and schools and a request I had sent on July 2 for DDA to consider in a Court-appointed Committee possibility of piloting an area-based approach of Master Plan implementation for low income housing, I wrote to DDA Vice Chairman:
“Together the above discuss Master Plan provisions and ground realities in respect of the areas that concern the poor the most – livelihood, education and shelter. As I had mentioned in our meeting on 4th June, I was especially driven to do these studies in view of the way the Master Plan has lately become a convenient whipping boy for all and sundry. In effect, the point being made in all three is that not only is the Master Plan not anti-poor, it actually offers a better deal to the poor than the patchy alternatives being thrown up by the Plan-bashers... I had hoped such a discussion would be found useful at the time of Master Plan review and that DDA would respond as, if not more, readily to poor people’s requests for Master Plan implementation as it does to odd requests from RWAs, NGOs and others in "civil society". But perhaps I take seriousness about the Master Plan too seriously... And perhaps that is also why I am unable to understand why the "demonstration" outside DDA’s Master Plan office is going on and on. They are repeatedly saying the Master Plan is just fine and needs to be implemented. Surely, that is also what the DDA, especially those of its officers who are involved in the Master Plan review, also believe. Why, then, has no one, especially no planner, bothered to come out and speak with them for two weeks?”
On July 20 I wrote an open letter to planners that I sent for display / circulation to School of Planning and Architecture, Institute of Town Planners India and its Delhi Regional Chapter (which carried it in its newsletter in October!), Town and Country Planning Office, HUDCO and DDA. I also left a copy in DDA’s Master Plan office. The letter said:
You would all recall last year’s very strange industrial workers’ unrest in Delhi in which slogans were raised not against management but against the Master Plan. So many "Big People" – politicians, NGOs and self-styled "experts" – were badmouthing the statutory Master Plan. Arguably, this was not called for because the fracas surrounding industrial closure was the result of implementation and other failures, not planning failures. In effect, those far more responsible than us for implementation failures were conveniently placing the blame at our door. Unfortunately we did not rally around to defend the Plan and call their bluff. I am writing this to inform all planners that another opportunity has been presented to us by other "Little People" to do so. Outside DDA’s Master Plan office ...a demonstration has been going on for several days... demanding Master Plan implementation... something to make plan and planner-bashers eat humble pie and to make planners and believers in planned development SMILE. Unfortunately, with (understandably) no politicians, NGOs, etc, supporting it, this 2-week old demonstration has not caught much attention. I believe support is due from us because we stand to gain from the time and effort these people are spending on raising serious and fundamental issues that are especially relevant in view of the ongoing Master Plan review as well as the emergent consensus on decentralisation, participation, etc. I have already started spending some hours every day with the "protestors" and am grateful to them for this opportunity to stand up and be counted in the ranks of planners who care about planned development. I am sure there are many, many more planners who would feel the same way and that is why I am sending this letter to places where I think planners might read it. I would like to make it very clear that I am not soliciting support for anything that I am doing and, therefore, please do not ask me to do clerical things like sending details for someone’s kind consideration. If, however, you are persuaded that this is a demonstration you should support as a planner and need some clarifications, please feel free to call... And please do forward this letter to other planners who might feel the same concern. I am sure there will be many planners who will stand up, with the real people, and say YES to planned development and NO to the development anarchy that electoral and civil politics is driving us to.
I even invited planners and media persons to a "seminar" style discussion on the Master Plan (on the pavement outside the Master Plan office) on August 2. The program listed as "speakers" the slum samiti (on Plan provisions for housing), VKRPVEM (on provisions for livelihood), slum students (on provisions for school education), the Federation (on infrastructure). The "discussion material" included report-summary style write-ups on all four issues as "local case studies" and select letters, etc to make the connection with larger issues (such as the rejoinder sent to ToI to connect the hawkers’ issue with ongoing policy dialogue). Sadly, only two planners, a few students and three press persons showed up for our "seminar" .
DDA continued to treat the people standing outside its Master Plan office with contempt. The police, it seemed, was being called more frequently. On August 10, in anger and in despair, those demonstrating outside DDA’s Master Plan office wrote to Urban Development Minister, Jagmohan, for an appointment. In their letter, faxed everyday for several days, they said :
“It is only after trying our best to engage with DDA otherwise that we took to the pavement. Here, too, for a month we have not solicited any one else’s intervention. But now we feel that DDA is unable to comprehend that we are not begging, only reminding it of its job to carry out development in accordance with the Master Plan and, at the same time, providing useful and timely feedback free of cost to the ongoing Plan review process... We are requesting your intervention not only because you are the Urban Development Minister, but also because your seriousness about planned development is well known.”
On August 14 I also wrote to the Minister:
“...According to Delhi’s statutory Master Plan, in Vasant Kunj DDA should have ensured provision of about 5000 cheap plots, space for over 750 hawkers, school sites for government schools, etc. These provisions are quite adequate vis-à-vis the existing demand. However, DDA has not done any of these things. Slum dwellers and hawkers (many of them older here than Vasant Kunj, even DDA) face constant harassment and slum students are stuffed like sardines in three pre-DDA schools, one of which is half the size recommended in the Plan. Flat residents (the Federation of whose RWAs supports this demonstration) are facing acute infrastructure problems on account of all manners of plan violations by DDA. For months various residents of Vasant Kunj have been requesting Master Plan implementation. All that they have managed to get after all their effort is a clear insight into all round utter indifference to the Master Plan… Four decades ago Delhi’s Master Plan became the model for hundreds of Master Plans in the country. Nowhere has planned development actually come about as per Plan and many planners will agree that a paradigm shift is needed wherein implementability becomes a core concern. Delhi’s Master Plan for 2021, one had hoped, would have become a model in this regard as well. But planners within the DDA seem content with treating Master Planning like wallpaper production.”
Meanwhile, on July 23 and on August 7 I had also written to Delhi Urban Arts Commission (whose sanction is required for schemes above a certain scale, including those for Community Centres, and since the Master Plan requires informal sector provisions to be ensured at the time of layout sanction):
“...nearly 500 shops and 100 hawkers that already exist around the site for community centre in Vasant Kunj... are, after all, part of the functions of community centre as envisaged in the statutory Master Plan and represent a case of reality overtaking plan implementation... the hawkers have already taken up the matter of Master Plan implementation in respect of informal sector provisions with the DDA. The Federation of RWAs has also written to the DDA a letter requesting integration of existing shops... In view of the above, I would like to request the Commission to kindly take these factors into account while according its approval to the proposed development on the site for community centre in Vasant Kunj.”
I had also learned that the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) was processing for the ministry, a study (by SPA) on hawkers in Delhi. On July 23 I had written to its CMD:
“…provisions for informal sector exist in the statutory Master Plan for Delhi. I have lately been working as a consultant to ...a forum of hawkers in Vasant Kunj. We have submitted to DDA a detailed report outlining possibilities for implementing Master Plan provisions. DDA is processing the request. I would be extremely grateful if details of the research that HUDCO is supporting could kindly be made available to me so that my clients can also apply themselves to issues being researched further in order to secure value addition in their proposal to DDA.”
No response was forthcoming from these public agencies either.
On August 24th, I was to make a presentation at a Round Table Discussion in the Planning Commission about the pro-poor provisions of the Master Plan. This made reference, towards the end, to the case of Vasant Kunj. The Minister, Jagmohan, was to give the inaugural address and the Vice-Chairman, DDA was also expected. On my request my presentation had been scheduled first. Unfortunately, both the minister and the Vice-Chairman left after the inaugural speech in which the Minister, incidentally, exhorted the experts present to focus on implementation issues rather than on new ideas. With reference to his remark I wrote to him:
“...I am especially grateful to you for your candid comment that what we need is not new ideas, but implementation will. That, in fact, was the central thesis of the presentation I made (an abstract of which I am taking the liberty to enclose)... In Vasant Kunj slum dwellers, students and hawkers (after prolific correspondence, reports, etc) have been "demonstrating" for nearly 8 weeks now to "demand" implementation of Master Plan provisions. And DDA has not responded...”
To the Vice Chairman, with whom I could speak for some time prior to the meeting, I wrote:
“I’d like to thank you for sparing your time for me prior to the Planning Commission meeting and for saying that we can meet soon to discuss the issues underlying the "demonstration" in Vasant Kunj... I see no ideological difference between the views of the Hon’ble minister and those of the people "demonstrating" outside the Master Plan office and am sure this convergence can be easily translated into practice. As such, I look forward to a very productive meeting with you.”
I did not hear from either the Minister’s or the Vice-Chairman’s office and, following a cabinet reshuffle at the end of the month we had a new urban development minister. Nor did any of the other "experts" present at the Planning Commission discussion (including the HUDCO CMD and several of my co-professionals) had anything to say to my presentation then or later.
Engaging on the PMO intervention (August - September 2001)
In the last week of August the PM’s policy precipitated by Manushi’s efforts was widely reported in the press. On August 31 VKRPVEM, still demonstrating outside the Master Plan office, wrote a memorandum to the Prime Minister. While welcoming his intervention and expressing the hope that registration for all hawkers in place of licenses for a few would help end harassment by police and municipal functionaries, it also expressed some concerns :
“This will not solve the problem of the performance-nuisance conflict inherent in hawking. Till this conflict is resolved, harassment of hawkers is unlikely to end. At the PM’s instance, the police and MCD may well stop, but there are still, for instance, RWAs... The root problem can only be solved by planned provision of space for hawking. After all, licenses or ID cards can’t be issued for hawking in the middle of roads or on the moon... For 7 months we have been trying in vain to get DDA to implement statutory Plan provisions meant for us. Now we fear... Are the ID cards proposed by the PM going to be in place of the place meant for hawkers? After all, land is worth millions and ID cards will cost only lakhs, besides being rather "fashionable" in these liberalising times...”
Copies of this memorandum were also sent to all those (in government) who were mentioned in media reports as engaging / being engaged in the matter, including the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Chief Minister. A copy was also sent to former PM, VP Singh, the only one who had written to DDA in response to the joint request from the demonstrators to political parties / leaders to help remind DDA that Master Plan implementation was not so much their ‘demand’ as its "job". Since February, this was the first time that the hawkers were writing to anyone outside of the DDA and its parent ministry in the matter. From their demonstration they continued to write post cards to the Prime Minister .
On September 4 VP Singh wrote to the PM :
“It is extremely odd that so much policy discussion on hawking is going on in the capital with no reference to the statutory Master Plan… It is also extremely odd that DDA (the custodian of the Master Plan) has done little to implement these decade-old and very sensible provisions… the real culprit in the harassment of hawkers in Delhi may well be DDA. After all, if it had made the provision it was meant to make for hawkers in planned development, they would not have been "unauthorised" and, therefore, not open to harassment by any one… At a time when the Master Plan is being revised, policies that suggest “land-less” options for hawkers pose a serious danger of the excellent provisions of the Master Plan being down-sized... DDA may find it very tempting to substitute ID cards that will cost just a few lakhs for space worth millions and completely get away with its own implementation failures... A serious assessment of DDA’s performance in relation to the provisions for hawkers in the Master Plan would be in order. At the least, the status of statutory plan implementation will provide an insight into what can be hoped for by way of policy implementation.
Perhaps on account of the intervention of the Prime Minister in the matter of hawkers in general our local elected representatives also finally noticed the demonstration that had been going on for two months. On September 4 our (Congress) Member in the Legislative Assembly drove down with his entourage from his office just a kilometre away and gave a rousing speech promising all kinds of support. On September 5 Our (BJP) Councilor drove down with her entourage from her residence three kilometers away and gave a rousing speech, exhorting the demonstrators to call of their protest since they now had her support and she would take up their cause with DDA and they need not worry. Both the MLA and the MLC wrote letters to DDA Vice-Chairman on behalf of the demonstrators and the demonstration was called off. On September 6 all the groups that had been demonstrating outside the Master Plan office sent a joint memorandum to the DDA Vice-Chairman, reiterating their "demands" for development in line with the Master Plan.
In the context of the PMO intervention, VKRPVEM also wrote a memorandum to request SHO, Deputy Commissioner and Federation Chairman to issue instructions to, respectively, police, MCD and RWA staff to immediately stop harassment (in line with the PM’s instructions). This was copied to the local MLA and MLC for support in respect of the police and municipal harassment as well as for information (in continuation of the memorandum sent on August 31) to the PM, CM and CVC. VKRPVEM requested in this memorandum that that the SHO, Deputy Commissioner and Federation Chairman issue instructions to their staff / members in writing and give a copy of the same to the hawkers. None, however, did so. Nor was any acknowledgement forthcoming from the offices of the PM, CM and CVC. Both the MLA and the MLC set as a pre-condition for support that they be given "lists" of hawkers. The hawkers felt that the politicians were interested in hijacking the space for hawkers in Vasant Kunj for "their" people and avoided doing so on the grounds that the PM’s intervention was for all hawkers and support on it was expected even where no lists had been made. In what was seen as an extreme case of political pettiness, the (BJP) Councilor actually tore up the memorandum that some hawkers had gone to hand over on the grounds that it was also addressed to the (Congress) MLA and CM.
By mid-September the proposal for haats for 80,000 hawkers in various places in Delhi was reported in newspapers. I wrote to the LG with reference to Master Plan provisions, my clients’ efforts and the interventions being currently discussed:
“(a) As a planner, I would like to request you to ensure that the discussions on hawkers in Delhi do not ignore the provisions of the statutory Master Plan. (b) As consultant to the Vasant Kunj Rehri Patri Vyapari Ekta Manch, which has been demonstrating (along with other groups) outside DDA’s Master Plan office to seek Master Plan implementation, I would like to request you to ensure that their request is satisfactorily processed at the earliest.”
Meanwhile, despite the PM’s intervention, harassment of hawkers continued unabated and, in fact, seemed to have increased. On September 25 VKRPVEM wrote a letter to the PM. Referring to the remark in the editorial in the September issue of the BJP newsletter, which said that it would not be right to dismiss the PM’s concern for hawkers as an electoral gimmick, they said:
(Translated) “We agree that any intervention aimed at stopping our welfare state from turning into a predatory state is constitutional. However, we regret that we have to add, that BJP’s own leaders and institutions, through their deeds, are making your words seem like an electoral gimmick… DDA, which comes under the BJP-led central government, has done nothing about our request for implementation of Master Plan provisions meant for us… Despite reports of our press conference in five national dailies, no one invited us to the national workshop on hawkers organised by the MoUD at which the BJP Minister known for his faith in the Master Plan endorsed big organisations’ "demand" for Master Plan provisions... Our BJP councilor tore up our request for support to end harassment in line with your interventions on grounds of our also writing to the Congress MLA… And despite our BJP Councilor, the MCD, which all say is controlled by BJP, is continuing with removal action even after your instructions”.
They also expressed, in this letter, their utter dismay at having not reached anywhere with their untiring effort since the beginning of the year:
“We have understood one thing in our effort of nine months… There are many ways of exploiting the poor… Harassment of citizens by public servants drawing salaries to serve them is just the most obvious form. Increasing, especially around election time, such harassment to garner support through the favour of then stopping it is another form with which the exploited, at least, are very familiar. And denial of rights under laws like Master Plan to be able to dole occasional favours instead is a form that is most indirect but one that at least we consider most venal... We do not think we have been wanting in our effort. We are unable to comprehend what else is expected of responsible citizens. Still, neither can we see any hope of getting our rightful planned space under the provisions of the Master Plan, nor can we see our problems reducing in any way. All we can see is the same old shops built and auctioned at high prices on spaces meant for us, the same old beat constables with their lathis, the same old removal vans, the same old RWAs asking us to get passes made, the same old elected representatives wanting to promise us favours. You only tell us whether to believe what the editorial in the BJP newsletter says or the politics of development that we clearly see all around us.”
This letter was also sent to the editor of the BJP newsletter as well as to the CVC.
Extraordinary efforts of ordinary people (October 2001)
On September 29 DDA, which had done nothing to give the hawkers their rightful place in markets, etc, mounted an extremely high-handed action to remove them from the roadsides.
The hawkers did not recall any previous instance of removal by DDA. The "style" of removal was also entirely unprecedented. DDA officers personally handled the operation, using a tractor-trolley. Hawkers were not issued any lists of the goods confiscated. Besides stalls, counters, etc, sale items, including prepared eatables and crates of fruits, were also confiscated. All confiscated goods were recklessly dumped into the tractor trolley and many things were damaged as a result (including a cycle, some boxes, tarpaulin, sheets, etc). A stall was completely destroyed when the owner objected. Some others who objected were beaten. Most of the confiscated goods were carelessly dumped in a Bank, which is on the premises of DDA’s offices. About 200 fresh samosas and 2 crates of apples, 40 dozen bananas, 35 kilo papayas, 10 kilo cheekoos, 25 kilo tomatoes, a box of pomegranates, etc, were consumed / taken by those who had confiscated them. Later in the day the Bank premises were unlocked and the hawkers were asked to take whatever was theirs. In the confusion many could not find all their goods, especially small items like steel glasses, spoons, spanners, etc and also a stove. Later, the Bank chowkidar even asked the hawkers to sweep the premises afterwards. The total material loss and damage is estimated at well over Rs.50,000.
When hawkers mentioned the PM’s and LG’s instructions, DDA officials said these did not apply here. When hawkers mentioned their own request for Master Plan implementation still pending before DDA, DDA officials said they did not know about all that. When hawkers asked where were they acceptably expected to be when their rightful places were being denied to them by DDA, DDA officials said, “Go to the Parliament. Or the LG’s house or homes of his relatives, but get off our roads. You don’t pay any of us hafta, so how can you sit on our land.”
On September 29 VKRPVEM wrote to the Police Commissioner about DDA’s action. Copies of the letter were also faxed to the PM, CVC and Vice-Chairman, DDA and called up some newspapers. On October 3, a news report on the episode said (in a box titled "On their own"): 
“According to a senior DDA official, no instructions were issued to remove hawkers. The Vasant Kunj DDA office acted on its own, the official said. Although he was non-committal on any action against the “erring staff”, he promised that the incident would be “seriously looked into”.
Expectedly, as with other promises by "senior DDA officials", there was no follow up.
Also on October 3 VKRPVEM again wrote to the Police Commissioner with copies as before and also sent a note to the press. And newspapers reported Manushi’s protest rally against the manner in which the PMO policy that it had precipitated was being implemented. The "big people’s" efforts that Vasant Kunj’s hawkers believed had derailed their own also appeared to have got nowhere.
DDA’s high-handed removal of hawkers despite the PM’s instructions had left all the others engaging with DDA for development according to the Master Plan in Vasant Kunj also rather dazed. A meeting of these groups (including representatives of, besides VKRPVEM, three slums and seven pockets of flats) was held and they decided to launch a common platform, Vasant Kunj Master Plan Implementation Support Group (MPISG). On October 8 the MPISG wrote in detail to the PM in the matter of Vasant Kunj’s hawkers:
“...the Manch’s members provide useful services but face (even after your personal directions) harassment by the police, MCD, DDA and even some flat residents, etc, primarily because they are in "unplanned" locations that are "illegal" and do, at times, pose problems for others... Our forum believes that the performance-nuisance conflict inherent in hawking can best be addressed through planned spatial integration, as envisaged in Delhi’s statutory Master Plan. The idea of a haat or two in every zone does not seem to us to be a very good one... through their continuing harassment hawkers (and, on account of the occasional nuisance that they pose here, even other residents) are really paying the price for DDA’s failure... We are, furthermore, very pained by DDA’s utter indifference to legitimate appeals by citizens – both hawkers and residents… by the indifference of the "system" to even Prime Ministerial directions... by our elected representatives’ inability to effectively intervene... by the fact that the discussions that led to and followed your intervention in the matter of Delhi’s hawkers did not make and are still not making any reference to statutory Master Plan provisions...”
A note on the Master Plan provisions for hawkers and a list of about hundred letters that had already been sent by or on behalf of the hawkers to DDA and others were enclosed. Copies of the MPISG’s letter to the PM were also forwarded to all those to whom earlier letters had been sent.
The MPISG also approached the Federation of RWAs for support in organising – in a purely interim arrangement pending action by DDA – hawkers in Vasant Kunj in line with the proposals made in the ambit of Plan provisions in VKRPVEM’s report, on which assurances from DDA had been received in June. On October 9 the Federation of RWAs of flat residents entered an unprecedented formal partnership with the hawkers of Vasant Kunj through a letter to VKRPVEM: (Translated):
“The Federation agrees with the proposal of VKRPVEM to organise hawking in Vasant Kunj... If VKRPVEM provides details of its interim arrangement to the Federation to invite comments of concerned RWAs, this cooperation will proceed smoothly... Since VKRPVEM represents hawkers and the Federation represents flat residents, citizens of Vasant Kunj should express themselves in this matter through these forums to maintain transparency... Since this partnership, apart from being between concerned stakeholders, is in line with the PM’s recent announcements as well as the Master Plan approved by Parliament, other government / non-government persons wishing to express themselves in this matter are also requested to do so through these forums...”
VKRPVEM circulated copies of this letter amongst its various units. The Federation sent copies of it to the Joint Commissioner and concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police and Commissioner and concerned Deputy Commissioner of MCD for appropriate directions to their staff. It also sent a copy to the LG in his capacity as Chairperson of DDA for information and support for this participatory initiative for planned development. As a registered member of Delhi government’s Bhagidari scheme of participatory governance, it also sent a copy to the Chief Minister (Bhagidari Chairperson) for information and support on its own participatory initiative.
The Federation’s support enthused VKRPVEM, which had become badly disheartened by the utter lack of response from all quarters. From the beginning of its effort, the hawkers had engaged as groups around various markets and so there was already a reasonable amount of clarity on who wanted to be where, at least as far as the DDA markets were concerned. In order to ensure complete transparency in its interim arrangement, VKRPVEM decided that each of its units would make a "file" containing documents (fine receipts, short-term license slips, RWA passes, police verification, letters from customers, etc) from each member as proof of being a bonafide hawker. It was also decided that before shifting to a market the list – with names and trades – of members (with "proof" in the file) and space in the market (already identified in VKRPVEM’s report to DDA) would be shown to the concerned RWAs. It was further decided that before shifting, each unit, at its own expense, would get names and trades of members painted on a board along with a simple explanation of the basis of the interim arrangement. This board (of a standard design throughout Vasant Kunj) would be put up in the market for total transparency and verifiability. On October 10, with representatives of the RWAs that were willing, VKRPVEM representatives went around various markets to explain its plans. Two of the VKRPVEM units whose "files" were ready also ordered their boards.
In the course of the joint visit, the Flat residents’ representatives suggested that the problematic vegetable market on the main road also be shifted to the vacant site for community centre behind it as part of the interim arrangement. This unit of VKRPVEM was a somewhat "difficult" one because of its complicated history. Its members were amongst the oldest hawkers here and were an organised entity well before VKRPVEM was formed. As a group they had shifted twice within Vasant Kunj and with some political help had also earlier been promised stalls here. Indeed a "Janata Market" had been built in a vacant site for local shopping centre, but had never been allotted to them. There was, it seems some disputed interest on the larger site, where someone had constructed some other shops which were partially demolished. Once these hawkers learned of the Master Plan provisions, they realised that what they had managed through political intervention was not really to their advantage compared to possibilities within the ambit of the statutory Plan. One, a separate Janta Market was less lucrative than hawking spaces integrated in an existing market. Two, the market that had been built for them had twice the number of stalls recommended in Master Plan norms for such a location, which would make their business unduly competitive. Three, the location of the Janta Market was also not very lucrative. As such, in the proposals put forth in the report for DDA they had opted for the space meant to be provided in the community centre, the site for which was right behind their present central location on the road. Lately MCD officials had been around to tell them of a proposal for issuing hawking licenses at their current location, in which, besides (some but not all) existing hawkers an equal number of others not hawking in Vasant Kunj were also to be included (allegedly because they had paid bribes). In the context especially of the dissatisfaction with the MCD’s proposed scheme of issuing hawking licenses (even as the PM’s instructions spoke of dismantling the licensing regime) the unit agreed to the flat residents’ suggestion.
The Federation and VKRPVEM issued a joint invitation to a press conference on October 11 to discuss and demonstrate hawking solutions within the ambit of both the statutory Master Plan and the PM’s interventions. The two units that were shifting to existing DDA markets were mostly mobile or small roadside units and these shifted in no time after putting up their boards. The vegetable market on the main road was an old market and, in what was a rather spectacular initiative, the stall owners began to voluntarily dismantle their 10-15 year old stalls in the afternoon.
Late in the evening, a beat constable came around and ordered them to stop. When reminded that under the law the police was empowered only to remove hawkers from problematic locations and not to stop them from doing so on their own and shown the Federation’s letter, he called his superior, who called his superior... The sub-inspector who arrived last said he would have to check with the Federation and was told that if he suspected forgery or had reservations about the Federation’s locus standii to issue such a letter he should investigate the matter separately and not link it to the voluntary removal. He said the hawkers should have informed the police station and was told that was not considered necessary as no police help or protection was needed. Finally he called the SHO on his mobile phone (which, incidentally, he had refused to let the hawkers use to call the Federation Chairman or anyone else). The SHO said there was a complaint against the unit representative and me about extorting money to allot land and was told he was welcome to investigate all that separately and also that no "allotment" was being made... Finally, since it was getting dark and the policemen were not inclined to listen, the shifting was suspended. Next morning VKRPVEM wrote to the police commissioner about the police interference in the hawkers’ efforts to shift from the road even as earlier in the day the police had ordered some other hawkers in Vasant Kunj to leave the roadside (claiming that the Deputy Commissioner had directed thus). With a copy of this letter, the Federation Chairman and I went to the Deputy Commissioner of Police to explain what was being attempted and the local police was asked not to interfere in the matter without speaking with either of us. Subsequently the shifting resumed and was completed the following morning, though three of the two dozen stalls refused to shift after the police interference.
The market that had shifted had been practically the only really problematic hawking area in Vasant Kunj since it was on a busy T-junction on the main road and there was often a traffic problem on account of customers’ parked vehicles in front of it. The results of its shifting, unlike the shifting of the other two units whose members had previously been rather unobtrusively scattered on surrounding roadsides, was quite dramatic .
The unit proudly put up a huge banner on the road to announce they had voluntarily shifted back for the convenience of traffic. Partly to "show off" and partly because some of the other units had developed cold feet after the police stopped the hawkers from shifting, VKRPVEM invited flat residents and all its members to an "inauguration" of the shifted vegetable market on the evening of October 13. Flat residents were highly appreciative of the hawkers’ initiative and the Federation Chairman promised to write to the Municipal Commissioner for cleaning, greening and securing the site that the hawkers had vacated and also for ensuring that no hawking licenses were issued on it (a request it had already made in its letter of October 10 about its partnership with VKRPVEM). This letter was sent on October 14 with a copy to the concerned Deputy Commissioner as well as to the LG (as DDA Chairman) and CM (as Bhagidari Chairperson).
Much encouraged by the residents’ support, other units also decided to resume their efforts towards completing the interim arrangement of VKRPVEM. They also decided to renew and expand the tentative efforts some of them had started by politely but firmly refusing to make extortion payments in the context of the PM’s announcements.
With hindsight one can see that October 13 and 14 marked the end of the uphill struggle of Vasant Kunj's hawkers (eventually with support of its flat residents) in support of planned urban development. What had been achieved was quite in textbook style. It was within the ambit of the law (Master Plan) and policy (PM's announcements and CM's bhagidari). It was in the nature public support for planned development (being a purely interim and wholly transparent attempt to do what DDA had assured and was anyway mandated to do, done after engaging enough to ask it to do it itself). It involved an unprecedented "stakeholder partnership" (between the two groups of bonafide stakeholders, cutting across class barriers). It involved a spectacular voluntary initiative (on the part of hawkers). "Concerned" public agencies were duly informed, as was the media.
All that was missing from the "perfect picture" was a politician or NGO or donor or some such feudal patron... an oversight for which citizens paid heavily.
In the celebratory mood that prevailed on these two days, we - both hawkers and residents - felt a great sense of achievement. We knew we would have to "defend" our effort by, among other things, explaining to all sorts of public servants that what we had done was not only in public interest and within the ambit of the law but also really a case of us doing their job. For that we were prepared. Several flat residents left their phone numbers with the hawkers and told them to call them in case any public servant came around to object. We also decided that, in the worst scenario of a demolition action, all we would do would be gather as many people as we could and ask for time to voluntarily dismantle again and leave.
What we did not realise was that the assumptions on which our "strategy" was based were themselves flawed. We were presuming that the people of India are supreme and public servants are meant to serve them and public representatives are meant to represent them. We were presuming that there was, in our democracy, premium on people wanting to be law-abiding and morally correct and logical thinking. We were presuming that The System's blindness and deafness and lust for power were aberrations that dominated only where people themselves were unwilling to fight them and willing to be compromised. We were presuming that when people themselves would peacefully, intelligently and painstakingly stand up for what is right The System would have to respond. Our presumptions, we soon found out, were way too presumptuous in our pseudo-democracy. And when the power of the state - or, rather, of those who have hijacked it - was unleashed on us, we were taken completely by surprise and could not stop the downhill slide.
This part of this story is an ugly portrait of how spirits are broken.
Public servants' Wrath and Retribution
Residents and hawkers (the only bonafide stakeholders in the matter of hawking) in Vasant Kunj were very pleased with their effort. Like peacocks we were preening before the press, putting up proud banners, writing to "concerned" public agencies about our splendid effort... But local government functionaries (probably worried by the potential loss they would have to suffer if the hawkers managed to get their rightful space without their "help") were quite displeased. The local police had already made its displeasure clear by trying to stop the shifting. Local DDA employees from the adjoining park came by to check out possibilities of making some money on a "per stall" basis for "allowing" the hawkers to be here (although they probably had no "official" role on the site). When the hawkers absolutely refused to entertain their "offer", they "warned" them of a removal action "like happened on September 29". Local MCD functionaries and others "close to the Councilor" (who were probably hoping to make a killing out of the licenses they were planning to issue on the road that had just been vacated) sent word that the hawkers were making a mistake by leaving the MCD road as MCD staff was at least better than DDA staff. Somewhat alarmed by all this "interest" from the "local" government functionaries, VKRPVEM faxed a letter to the PM (with copies to senior officials of these local public servants) about these developments, saying: (Translated):
"We do not know if this attitude of local government employees is rooted in their corruption or in their limited understanding. But we feel it is against the spirit of democracy for the government to oppose, rather than support, citizens' groups' initiatives that are in public interest, principled and within the ambit of the law. We believe that if local government employees take any unwarranted action against us, their senior officers will surely take action against them. We are writing to you, with copies to concerned senior officials, only so that no unwarranted action by local public servants against public interest happens in the first place. We hope that no circumstances that make us lose faith in our government shall arise. We would be extremely grateful if we could get a letter from your office with which we could at least ask local functionaries to hear us out."
On the morning of October 15 someone from DDA's "Enforcement Division" arrived on the community centre site and ordered the hawkers to remove their stalls. When asked to please read the board, he left saying he would fetch his senior officers. The hawkers called up a few of the flat residents who had previously volunteered their phone numbers for such a situation. Half a dozen residents were present when a DDA Junior Engineer arrived. He refused to listen to what we all had to say. He only kept saying that he didn't care what we did outside "his" site and if we were so keen to help the hawkers we should give them space in our flats. He had no clue about the Master Plan and refused to read the board that had been put up, saying, as he got busy with his mobile phone, only that his senior officers would be here in micro-seconds and they would speak to us...
Instead of "senior officers" the mali from the park adjoining the community centre site climbed over the intervening fence along with two others and walked straight to the board, removed it and began to walk back into "his" park. We objected vehemently to our board being taken and asked him to put it back. He became quite abusive and told me that I had made a business out of this matter and took money from hawkers every day. The hawkers reminded him that it was he who took money from them every day and he would make nothing from them anymore because they had figured out that the roadside where they had been was actually under MCD and not "his" and this site also was not "his". He had to leave our board, but he did not install it back...
An Assistant Engineer of DDA arrived next. He said that this was not bhagidari but dukandari, that we could not "encroach" on "his" land and had no business jeopardising his job and that he didn't mind what we did provided we had an allotment letter from DDA. We asked him to help us ensure that we and not, say, a cyber centre got an allotment letter from DDA for this site meant for us...
An Executive Engineer (the same one who had initiated the confiscation and removal action on September 29) arrived next. The hawkers immediately wanted to know if they were expected to hawk on the moon if DDA finds it unacceptable for them to either remain on the roads or get off the roads. He actually said he had nothing to do with this site...
Then the police, called by the DDA officers, arrived...
The hawkers made it clear that they had written enough letters to everybody and they would not move unless someone showed them written orders requiring them to do so, along with the basis for such orders.
DDA stationed four men to keep watch on the hawkers. On the other hand flat residents also took turns to remain with the hawkers through the day.
In the evening, the SHO called us to the police station. The unit president and I (as the consultant to VKRPVEM) went along with the Federation Chairman and office bearers of three RWAs. After keeping us waiting for an hour, the SHO met us. He said that he was the "chief chowkidar" of Vasant Kunj and would have to take action against us for encroaching in a park since DDA had complained. He was not interested in knowing that we had not "encroached" and that the site in question was not a "park". Nor would he show us DDA's "complaint". Finally we left, saying we hoped we would be given a copy of the complaint whenever action was actually taken against us.
Worried by the attitude of DDA staff and the SHO, VKRPVEM and MPISG sent urgent faxes to the PM, who had also lately written to the urban development minister in the matter of DDA corruption. VKRPVEM wrote to the PM on October 15 (with copies to DDA Vice-Chairman and CVC): (Translated):
"Today DDA's local staff did what we had feared. They said our voluntarily shifting from a nuisance causing location to a vacant DDA site in an interim arrangement in line with the Master Plan with written support from the Federation after 9 months of requesting though over 100 letters and a detailed report implementation of statutory Plan provisions is "land grabbing"... We kept saying that sooner or later place for the likes of us would be carved out on this site under the Plan, there was no reason for citizens to continue facing problems on account of DDA's lethargy... etc. But they were not interested in understanding our viewpoint. None of them were aware of the Plan or of DDA responsibility towards us... Local DDA and police functionaries have latched on to the fact that, despite verbal assurances from DDA's highest officials, we have nothing in writing... It looks like hawkers and residents and the Parliament approved Plan stand on one side on "DDA's" vacant land. On the other side stand our government's DDA and police staff preparing to demolish this sterling effort - only because no one in government considered it necessary to write us two lines in response to our hundred letters. Since you are worried about both hawkers and DDA corruption, can you have two lines written and sent to us?
The MPISG wrote to the PM on October 16 (with copies to DDA Vice-Chairman and CVC): - "...In the context of your letter to the Urban Development Minister regarding corruption in DDA, we would like to submit the following to point out that an important dimension of corruption in DDA is that it acts more like a real estate developer than a public agency meant to develop cheaply acquired public land in line with the Master Plan: (1) There is clear evidence that space meant for hawkers in DDA markets here has been sold / auctioned for more lucrative purposes. At least two RWAs have written to DDA taking exception to the fact that its "local shopping centres" have nothing "local" about them nor, for that matter, any or enough "shopping"; (2) It is also obvious DDA delays development of markets like a speculative builder while local need shops, including hawkers, come up on roads. The site to which hawkers shifted is a case in point. It has been lying vacant for nearly 15 years while nearly 500 local need shops and over a 100 hawker units that it was meant to have under the Master Plan have come up on the roads in the vicinity; (3) That DDA's indifference to the Master Plan is deliberate is obvious, for instance, from the fact that 9 months of concerted efforts to secure Master Plan implementation by hawkers evoked no response from it; (4) How lower level functionaries gain out of this broader corruption is also starkly evident in this case. Hawkers began shifting on Thursday 11th and DDA functionaries, notably a section officer of the Horticulture Department, began to make overtures which culminated in a demand for Rs.5000/- per shop. It was after this demand was refused that DDA officials arrived to order removal on 15th. ... Now a joint effort by flat residents and hawkers for an "interim" solution within the ambit of the Master Plan to a serious problem arising out of DDA's indifference to its job is likely to be "demolished" by DDA on the grounds that DDA has not issued a letter in response to either the hawkers' or the Federation / RWAs' letters. We beg your urgent intervention to stop this absurdity.
Also on October 16, the Federation sent an urgent fax to the Chief Minister (with copy to PM and DDA Vice-Chairman):
"We are very pained to inform you that the unprecedented partnership between flat residents and hawkers to shift hawkers from a problematic and hazardous site under an "interim arrangement" to one that is lying empty and is meant to accommodate them under the statutory Master Plan is being viewed as "unauthorised encroachment" and is likely to be demolished by DDA. We had enthusiastically written to you on 10th October for your support and blessings as you are the champion of bhagidari by citizens. We had also enthusiastically started making plans for cleaning, greening and securing the site vacated and had sent you a copy of our letter of 14th October in this regard to the Municipal Commissioner. Obviously, as in the markets it has already developed here, DDA plans to sell to more expensive shops the space meant for hawkers in the yet to be made market to which they have shifted as an interim measure. DDA officials are simply not concerned by the fact that DDA's failure to provide for hawkers in Vasant Kunj under the statutory Master Plan has inconvenienced residents and in locations such as the one vacated even exposed them to grave risk of accidents and injury. Nor are they concerned by the fact that both residents and hawkers - the only bonafide stakeholders in the matter - are perfectly satisfied with this arrangement which, in fact, DDA should itself have implemented as it is required by the Master Plan that DDA is mandated to implement. DDA's intention to demolish a sterling citizens' effort to do what is actually DDA's own job is not only a vilification of the notion of bhagidari in development but also an absurdity of governance. That the grounds for its action is that it has not given either the hawkers' Manch or the flat residents' Federation anything in response to our prolific correspondence in the matter is absolutely appalling. Madam, we implore you to urgently intervene to restrict DDA from making bhagidari a laughing stock with its deplorably high-handed and utterly misguided perception of its own role in Delhi's planned development."
All these urgent faxes were also sent to the press, but no one visited or reported.
Also on October 17, the hawkers mentioned that they had to call a PCR van to stop trucks from depositing soil in the middle of the night on the site they had vacated. They said that they had also been getting all sorts of "warnings" about the hawking licenses MCD wanted to give them (and others not hawking here) on that site. The Federation, which had already written to Municipal Commissioner (with copies to Deputy Commissioner of our municipal zone, LG and CM) in this matter on October 10 and again on October 14, wrote again (with copies as before) on October 17 to:
"...reiterate with urgency the requests that we have already made for immediate action, namely: cleaning, greening and securing of the site voluntarily vacated by the hawkers with support of the Federation of RWAs of flats in wider public interest, and banning hawking licenses on the roadside here since there is adequate provision for hawking space under the statutory Master Plan for Delhi on the empty DDA site right behind the roadside location where municipal staff has marked tehbazari lots."
On October 17 I also sent an urgent fax to the Urban Development Minister (with copy to PM and also to VP Singh, who had written to the PM). After briefly outlining the case for the (new) minister, I placed before him my assessment of the "conflict":
"The DDA's view is that the hawkers have unauthorisedly encroached on DDA's site. The citizens' view is that DDA has unauthorisedly kept their community centre site vacant for 10 years leaving hawkers and shops on the road and that this interim arrangement is actually a case of citizens doing DDA's job. DDA's main "point" is that the citizens have nothing in writing from DDA. The citizens' view is that for that they are not to blame, as DDA has not bothered to respond to a single letter from either the hawkers or the flat residents in the matter. Obviously, DDA views itself as Delhi's largest landlord and its role as a manager of real estate according to the letter of the rules. But citizens in Vasant Kunj expect from it planned development of public land in its custody in the spirit of the law. ... "Yesterday urgent faxes were sent by the hawkers' manch, flat residents' Federation and Master Plan Implementation Support Group. But there has been no response so far. On the site, DDA has left four men who actually "advised" hawkers not to get anything from the mandi to sell. This letter is to request you to intervene to stop any action here by DDA till DDA has communicated its stand on Master Plan implementation here in writing to the citizens' groups that have written to it in the matter."
No one responded to our urgent letters and requests... either about the roadside vacated or about the interim arrangement on the community centre site. As all the king's horses and all the king's men - or, if you please, our democracy's right royal public servants who do not serve and public representatives who do not represent - played ostrich, there was no stopping what the state did to its citizens on October 18.
On October 18 DDA staff (from assorted departments) arrived with a dozen policemen and some wage labour, walked in and without a word started manual demolition. We asked to see their written orders (for what they were doing to us because we had nothing in writing). They said they didn't need any as we had encroached on "their" land. We asked the police to show us their complaint. They said we should speak to DDA staff. We asked for time to voluntarily dismantle our stalls, considering no one was willing to show us anything in writing. They disregarded our request. In less than 9 minutes DDA had destroyed 9 months of effort. After that they began to load the dismantled material into trucks. When we objected, they drove away the half-filled trucks. They burned much of what remained. The police just stood around, saying they would look into our complaint (about taking away our goods without receipts or burning them) after they were done with DDA's work...
DDA, with the support of the police, destroyed much more than a few stalls. It broke everyone's spirit.
Flat residents, pampered in bhagidari with all manners of lollipops by way of illegal / unplanned development (including, in Vasant Kunj, illegal bore-wells, etc) were especially shattered by the fate of their own attempt at principled, lawful bhagidari. Since DDA had not given us any time before it started, the flat residents only started arriving after it was all over. One can easily imagine how they would have felt, as they looked upon the debris of what they had felt so proud of.
Even for the hawkers, who are far more resilient, the viciousness of what had happened was too much to take, especially since it came so soon after a state of triumphant euphoria. One of them said they've rudely smashed us from the clouds where we were floating to the hard ground.
And "they" were not done with us. For two days, things kept getting worse as DDA hired private security to protect our land from us and its underlings, such as the mali next door, as well as those of our MCD and our Police kept coming around to gleefully tell us "We told you so". And when the hawkers began to shift back to the roadside, the police that had objected to them leaving it, actually stopped them from returning to it...
I was far more stupid than any one else. I kept saying we must meet to agree a strategy and write to someone. Every one said, "What's the point?" The hawkers even said. "Where will we meet? The park is there's and so is every place else?"
In despair, I wrote myself to the Urban Development Minister:
"...because we had nothing in writing from anyone to say that statutory Master Plan provisions have to be implemented - indeed should have been implemented - by DDA, a sterling citizens' initiative was demolished this morning... It is noteworthy that on 29th September, in a similarly high-handed action, DDA had removed hawkers' stalls from roads here. This is even as hawkers here are on the roads because DDA has not bothered to give them the space statutorily meant for them. Now, when citizens acted to do what DDA should have done years ago as a purely "interim" measure after first trying long and hard to get DDA to do it, DDA came and returned the hawkers to the road. Through all the discussion on hawkers' precipitated by the PM's intervention, DDA has kept Master Plan provisions for hawkers a closely guarded secret. All that remains to be asked is why bother to revise the Master Plan when it has no standing?"
And also to the Vice-Chairman, DDA:
I am writing to you to ask two things. In their enthusiastic, single minded devotion to their duty of keeping DDA land free from encroachment by those who may well have been on it for ten years in view of the Master Plan, DDA staff from various DDA departments (Enforcement, Housing, Engineering, Horticulture, etc) participated. Without any written order or a moment's notice, despite repeated requests for the same, they demolished the "encroachment", confiscated much of the dismantled material and set fire to a lot of the rest... I wonder if all this enthusiasm was in accordance with prescribed DDA procedures for "encroachment" removal... Unlike the "encroachment" in question that was in line with the law... and had the support of citizens... Much of the J-zone (earmarked for rural/agricultural landuse in the Master Plan and environmentally crucial for ground water recharge for all of Delhi) near Vasant Kunj has been lost to farmhouses... Nearly 40 hectares under school sites and 16 hectares under shopping areas have been used up in ways not quite intended in the Master Plan... The "police canteen" on the edge of the plot at a main road intersection and the MLA's office very close to the main road have implications for traffic, besides setting bad examples... DDA's own office in a block of 6 residential flats here falls in the same category ... I wonder which local DDA staff monitors the Master Plan rather than just "DDA property"... I know letters to DDA go mostly unanswered. However, this time I'm only asking two simple questions about procedures and staffing..."
On Saturday, October 20 Express Newsline carried a page-1 report about us . On October 18 a reporter from Indian Express, in Vasant Kunj for something else, had come by just after the demolition when all that DDA had burned was still smouldering on the roadside. We had played back to her the video of the demolition (I was lucky to have captured it all on video). Later the same day she was to attend a press conference called by the Ministry of Urban Development and promised to mention the matter there. Her report said that the Minister had said "action will be taken against Delhi Development Authority officials if they are found guilty" and "agreed that land meant for hawkers as per the Master Plan should not be used for any other purpose". It also says that he "wanted to see the details of the case before taking a decision". The report also mentioned that we had a full video.
I promptly gave copies of the clipping to the hawkers and explained what it said. Local government functionaries, who were continuing to gleefully visit, were shown the news report so they could sweat. In a bizarre turning of the tables, our public servants, so used to extorting money from hawkers, started coming around to offer them "protection" money!
The first constructive use that we made of the news report was to ensure that the hawkers shift back without any interference from the police. Through the day on Sunday October 19 the Federation Chairman and myself stood around with the newspaper clipping as status quo ante was restored.
On October 22 I wrote to the Minister with reference to the news report that mentioned his wanting to see the details of the case, requesting an opportunity to place the same before him. However, despite repeated calls to his office, we could not get an appointment with the Minister.
Meanwhile, DDA had begun to hastily construct a wall to block off the entrance to the community centre site. DDA had done nothing for 10 years about implementation of Master Plan provisions for hawkers. DDA had done nothing for 10 months about Vasant Kunj's citizens' request for the same. DDA had done nothing about the high-handed - and possibly illegal - confiscation action of September 29 even as the affected hawkers' request was pending before it. DDA had done nothing about the high-handed - and possibly illegal - demolition of October 18 even as the citizens' purely interim and totally transparent initiative was in support of Master Plan implementation in public interest. And now it was building, in indecent haste with public money, a wall (in addition to the private security it had already recruited) to block the entrance of a community centre site to "protect" community land from the community.
Our local public servants also seemed to have figured out before us - probably with their greater insight into The(ir) System and access to its grapevines - that no enquiry into the matter would happen. They were again strutting around, smirking as The Wall grew - like a victory memorial in honour of a triumphant state that had shown vanquished citizens their place, a rude reminder of reality. And with it grew the utter despair of those who had been trying to ensure that planned development is not reduced to real estate development.
Clutching for straws as the public consciousness about planned development that had grown in Vasant Kunj over the last several months turned to bitter cynicism, I saw an "opportunity" in the initial reaction of our local government functionaries to the presence of a video in our possession. We had no intention of using the same to get a handful of individuals suspended, transferred, enquired into or otherwise made scapegoats. But it occurred to me that if the footage, along with earlier footage of the hawkers' press conference, their demonstration, their initiative with the support of the flat residents, etc were to be used to tell the whole story of their experience two purposes could be served. One, it might help to put things in perspective here as everyone seemed to have just forgotten everything that happened before the dramatic demolition and, two, it might become a useful document for engaging a wider audience on the larger issues of hawkers, Master Plan implementation, etc.
I decided to use the "story" of Vasant Kunj's hawkers as a peg to hang the larger issue of DDA corruption in the subversion of the Master Plan (especially its pro-poor provisions) to reduce planned development on cheaply acquired public land to real estate development. This was for three reasons. Firstly, in Vasant Kunj all engaging with DDA on master plan implementation were already seeing unplanned development as a corruption issue and such a treatment of the subject would suit the first purpose of making the film. Secondly, with the Master Plan revision underway I believed it was important to focus attention on implementation failures so that planning provisions are not downsized to cover up for lapses on that count and such a film might help the second purpose for which it was being made. Thirdly, lately the PM had also intervened (by writing to the Urban Development Minister) in the matter of DDA corruption and a film connecting two issues that had attracted the PM's intervention might be "topical". Besides, following newspaper reports about the PM's concern about corruption in DDA, VKRPVEM had already written (on October 12) to the PM (with reference to their numerous earlier letters) to make this connection:
(Translated) "Today we read in the papers about the letter you have written to the Urban Development minister about DDA on the basis of an analysis of 967 complaints received by your office. We, and lakhs of hawkers like us, sympathise with the 967 complainants affected by DDA's irresponsible behaviour in the matter of flat allotments, etc, because we are also victims of the very same attitude... We humbly beg to draw your attention to DDA's distressing attitude towards, besides hundreds of flat allottees, etc, lakhs of hawkers."
Thus it was that at the end of October, with my amateur footage and no experience in film-making, I was making a film to explore various dimensions of DDA corruption through the 10 month long story of Vasant Kunj's hawkers. The film is in six parts. The first is about Master Plan provisions for hawkers that have been ignored as space meant for hawkers has been used for other purposes for profiteering on public land. The second is about the efforts of Vasant Kunj's hawkers - supported by flat residents - to request DDA to do its job and DDA's utter indifference to their legitimate request. The third is about the raging "policy dialogue" in which DDA (custodian of the Master Plan) has mislead civil society through its secrecy and even mis-information about Master Plan provisions for hawkers. The fourth is about the high-handedness that DDA demonstrated against the citizens it has failed by its removal action on September 29th after the PM's intervention. The fifth is about Vasant Kunj's residents' sterling initiative in support of implementation of Master Plan provisions for hawkers. The last is about the reprisal for interfering with its profiteering.
At the beginning of November, the film was ready. It is a bad film but it has an engaging story and it looked as if it might serve at least its first purpose. Although we had no place to have a public screening, dozens of people - from amongst hawkers as well as flat residents - began to come over to see it at my place on my computer screen. And although we were no longer having weekly meetings (since DDA staff minding the park we used to meet in had "warned" us to stay off and since the slum in which the engaging with DDA had started the previous year was also being "influenced" by our elected representatives in the run up to the municipal elections early in 2002), we started small meetings at my place.
We quickly agreed that now we must get DDA to clarify its stand on implementation of Master Plan provisions for hawkers in writing. If it would say yes, we would again execute our interim arrangement, this time with something in writing from DDA. If it said no, we would move court for judging whose interpretation of DDA's mandate was in greater public interest. Since DDA was obviously not worried by our requests, we drew up a list of those who might be able to get it to respond to us in writing. These included the Ministry, the Central Vigilance Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, the PM and the LG. We decided to write to them for an opportunity to show our film. In the Ministry, we decided that instead of the Urban Development Minister (who had not responded to our urgent requests for an appointment) we would approach the Minister of State who had, at the MoUD-SEWA workshop in May, been put in charge of the hawkers' issue .
On November 6, I wrote to Bandaru Dattatreya, outlining the efforts of my clients since the beginning of the year and referring to the Express Newsline report of the press conference where he was also present, to say:
"... the DDA action of 18 October was brought to your notice at the press conference the same evening and it was reported that an interest had been expressed in seeing the details of the case. It is in that context that I have been seeking an appointment since (in my capacities as urban planner and consultant to hawkers in and resident of Vasant Kunj). I have full video footage of the demolition on 18.10.01, full documentation of the hawkers' effort since February and now also a 45-minute film that tells the story till end October. I would like to request an opportunity to place the facts of the matter before you at the earliest."
To the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, I wrote:
"The 45-minutes long film places this 9-month long "story" in a development planning perspective to show there is more to politics of development and corruption in agencies like DDA than meets the eye... In view of (besides your personal and official role against corruption) your intervention in the matter of hawkers as well as the letters sent by and on behalf of Vasant Kunj's hawkers in recent weeks, I request an opportunity to show this film to the Commission."
To the Secretary General of National Human Rights Commission, I wrote:
"The net effect of DDA's more subtle forms of corruption is that large and growing numbers of people in the city are being denied their spatial rights under the Master Plan (even as DDA was given draconian powers for cheaply acquiring land only for development as per Master Plan). Without presuming wisdom in areas other than urban planning, I would like to say that this denial appears to be a significant causal factor in curtailment and infringement of other citizens' rights in urban areas. Primarily with this hypothesis, but also to draw attention to the specific matter of hawkers, I request an opportunity to show this film to the Chairman and other members of the NHRC."
To the LG, VKRPVEM wrote:
(Translated) "The 45-minute film based on our story exposes DDA's indifference to the Parliament approved solution to the hawking problem and highlights various dimensions of corruption in it... We are sure that you will be able to spare time to see our film made by qualified planner based on our story of our efforts to secure implementation of provisions approved by our Parliament. We would be very grateful if you would let us know when and where we can show the same to you."
To the PM, VKRPVEM, in addition to what it wrote to the LG, wrote:
(Translated) "In September your office wrote to the Urban Development Minister in the matter of corruption in DDA. In August, based on a film made by an NGO, you had personally intervened in the matter of hawkers... We are sure that you will also spare time to view our film..."
While we managed, with our film, some success with its first purpose (picking up the pieces in Vasant Kunj), we made very little headway on its second purpose (wider discussion on the larger issue). We had a film, but no audience.
VKRPVEM kept sending faxes to the PM and LG, with no response. I kept calling the office of Minister of State and finally sent him another fax on November 13 to say:
"Besides the details of the case, outlined in my earlier fax (and subject of my film), there is a larger question that I wanted to draw your attention to. I am sure the MoUD and PMO and LG Secretariat (not to mention premier NGOs) have good reason to intervene in the matter of hawkers in Delhi without making any reference to the statutory Master Plan approved by Parliament. As a conservative urban planner (with, I might add, the most impeccable credentials) I have no clue what those reasons might be. And from my limited understanding I see no basis to deny implementation of statutory provisions to citizens who happen to prefer them to ad-hoc schemes. Frankly, this entire episode leaves me wondering why exactly the nation pays for either the School of Planning or for the expensive Master Plan review process - or, for that matter, allows the capital's development authority to get away with real estate development in place of planned development. Indeed, from my current work with my other clients (including slum dwellers, slum students, urban villages' communities) it is abundantly clear that DDA is not at all inclined to implement any of the Master Plan's pro-poor provisions. With the Master Plan review process on, I do believe, a substantive discussion on this trend is timely and your ministry's intervention alone can ensure that the urban poor are not treated like a separate set of people in the city's Master Plan."
Later the same day I was given a late evening appointment. The minister told me that, after the MoUD-SEWA workshop, the ministry had written to all state secretaries. He had not been informed that hawkers were still being harassed, nor of Master Plan provisions for them in Delhi by any one. The minister recalled the reporter from Indian Express and asked me to send a representation. His secretary told him that the two faxes I had already sent were quite comprehensive. The minister asked him to enquire into the matter. He said his office would get back to me in the next two-three days for an appointment for a longer meeting where I could bring more people and show the film. But this meeting did not materialise.
Through November I did not hear from the NHRC and CVC either. VKRPVEM's requests (faxed several days in a row) for an opportunity to show the film to the PM and the LG also evoked no response. At the end of November I wrote again to the NHRC and the CVC. The NHRC responded to regret. The CVC saw me on December 4 and gave me a patient hearing and invited me to show the film to the Commission on December 12. The reaction to the screening took me by surprise. There was none. The CVC had said it was "comprehensive" and asked me to send a note summarising the corruption dimensions, which I faxed on December 19. When I called subsequently, I was told the CVC had written in the matter but copies of his letters could only be sent to me if he directed this.
Most dismaying was my failure to engage the formal platforms of the planning fraternity in Delhi - the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) , the Institute of Town Planners India (ITPI) and its Delhi Regional Chapter (DRC). As mentioned previously, in August I had already written to all of these about the demonstration that, for a change, was in support of the Master Plan and invited, through them, the planning fraternity to a "seminar" on the pavement outside the Master Plan office where it was going on. Later, the same two planners (both faculty members in SPA and my colleagues, since I continue to be on the guest faculty there despite having become very unpopular) came to my place to see the film. And, at the initiative of one of them, on November 8, the film was screened at SPA. Several students of both planning and architecture and a few faculty members from departments for post-graduate architectural studies were present. But, despite notices announcing the film screening being put up all over the building, there was not a single member of the planning faculty. I also met with office bearers of the DRC (which had reproduced my invitation of August in the "Events" section of its newsletter) and they agreed to hold a colloquium on the subject, but after already scheduled events - annual picnic and New Year party!
On November 25th Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, suggested in his regular column in the Times of India that all planners should be sacked and jailed for their failures in the matter of hawkers. Being quite confident that my clients (hawkers) did not want me (planner) sacked or jailed for anything and also because I disagreed with much of what was said in the column, I felt I should rejoin. I outlined Master Plan provisions for hawkers and the experiences of my clients and went on to say:
"Despite the Master Plan being a public document and coincident efforts of hawkers to secure implementation of its provisions for hawkers, the current "debate" on hawking continues to ignore the Parliament approved (planners') solution to the hawking problem, to suggest less robust and holistic "alternatives" and to denigrate planners. Who, Mr.Aiyer should be sacked and/or jailed for abetting such anarchy, for allowing organisations and individuals in and out of government to rise above the Parliament for the self-indulgence of constantly re-inventing the wheel rather than getting down to the less glamorous business of rolling it? Surely, not just planners and, surely, not all planners... I personally believe there are many planners who have a professional responsibility to do more than they have done in this matter. ...That the top brass of the planning profession has not done as much as it might have is a manifestation of a much wider failure where greatest professional (or any) quality or concern is seldom found at the top. For this planners in general are hardly to blame. ...I really do not think it is for anyone to paint an entire profession black. ...I am too conservative a development thinker to comprehend Mr.Aiyer's 21st century view that it is "productive" for graduates to sell bananas. I continue to believe it would be a colossal waste of national investment in planning education if all planners - for no fault, really - were to languish in jail as suggested by Mr.Aiyer. And I, for one, can say with confidence that my clients (hawkers) would rather sack any of the others mentioned above than me (planner). Unfortunately, these others are not accountable to them or to those who are accountable to them. Any ideas who to sack or jail for that, Mr.Aiyer?"
Given my own experience with trying to draw the attention of Times of India in the matter of hawkers in Delhi to a perspective other than that of Manushi which it seemed to support rather than report, I also realised that my rejoining wasn't going to help. So I sent to all those whom I considered responsible for "defending" the planning profession, copies of my rejoinder along with my covering letter to the editor. These included the ITPI, DRC, SPA, the organisation of students of planning, the Planning Commission, the Commissioner Planning in DDA, etc. Several professionals got back to say they had written to the Times of India in their individual capacities. But, to my knowledge, no professional platform formally reacted to the column's ill-informed and intemperate remarks about planners. Nor did the Times of India respond to or publish any of the individual responses.
Around the same time I received by ordinary post, post-marked November 22, a copy of a note (no. Commr.(Plg.)/2001/89) dated October 19 (the day after DDA's stunning demolition) from the office of DDA's Commissioner (Planning) to the OSD to PMO referring to some "numbers 5228, 5231, 5269 dated 4th and 5th October". It said:
"This is with reference to representations from Vasant Kunj Rehari Patari Vyapari Ekta Manch. They have raised the issue about non-implementation of the Master Plan provisions of the land for informal sectors. As per the Master Plan there is a provision for informal sector in all our commercial sectors such as local shopping centre, community shopping centre and district shopping centre. In many of the places DDA has allotted the land for such informal sectors in our various schemes. As far as the Vasant Kunj is concerned I have requested the Chief Architect, DDA who is incharge of designing the shopping centre to identify the land for such informal sector and forward the same to Lands Disposal Department for further necessary action."
The note, signed by the Commissioner (Planning) was copied to me (at #2) and (at #1) to the "Chief Architect, DDA - to take and demarcate the space for informal sectors in the shopping sectors in Vasant Kunj as well as in other areas". I did not understand this at all. I wrote (with a copy faxed to PMO) to the Commissioner (Planning) who, I believed, had already promised us this in June 2001:
"... We are not sure what you are now requesting your Chief Architect. The space that has been indicated for us in plans has already been auctioned by DDA to others. Our report of May makes proposals about how space can still be carved out for us as per Master Plan. As citizens, we appreciate your concern to get to the bottom of this aspect of corruption in DDA but we would appreciate it even more if you would de-link that effort from our issue. ...We are unable to comprehend why this matter is being viewed as our representation rather than as DDA's job. We are not demanding regularisation of violations by us, only implementation of a statute whose implementation is DDA's over-riding mandate. From our experience, it seems: (a) DDA does not care to implement the Master Plan even on request, leave alone normally (that alone explains the fact that our "representations" have evoked no action...), (b) local officials see DDA's job in terms of real estate management (minding "their" 30m road, etc) rather than planned development (that alone explains the removal action on 29.09.01), (c) DDA, apart from itself not implementing the Master Plan, will not even let citizens help only so that its real estate can continue to lie vacant! (That alone explains the demolition on 18.10.01 and hiring of private security and blocking of site entrance to protect a "DDA" site even as shops/hawkers meant to be on it have come up around it "'illegally''...). We are not sure what "further necessary action" can chief architect/LDD possibly take on these. On my own behalf as a planner, I would also like to draw your attention to Mr Swaminathan S Ankleswar Aiyer's piece in the Sunday Times of India (November 25), which proposes that all planners be sacked / jailed for our role regarding hawkers. (I have sent you a copy of my rejoinder). I can only implore you, as custodian of the first Master Plan to include explicit and adequate provisions for hawkers, to do the needful to ensure that our profession is not denigrated in this manner."
Quite expectedly, I did not get any response / clarification. And I considered it a cruel coincidence that this note, which (through its explicit reference to community shopping centres) gave a modicum of legitimacy to our interim arrangement demolished on October 18 was dated October 19.
From where I stood at the end of November 2001, with one horror film in hand and one horror story in head and hundreds of horrified people whom I met each time I stepped outside my house, our governance systems looked more like an ostrich farm than anything else. The only small satisfaction I had was that my income having reduced to non-taxpayer slab since I quit the mainstream profession, I was no longer party to paying for its upkeep. I had thought we had hit rock bottom and things could hardly be worse. I forgot there was hell right below.
Public representatives' wrath and retribution
In the brief phase of enthusiasm just after the film was finished, we had also decided to try and raise the matter through Parliament, whose winter session was to start on November 19. After some amount of discussion we drafted the following questions:
- How many, if any, hawkers have been accommodated - in sanctioned layout plans as well as in terms of actual disposal/allotment - in DDA's own commercial and other development in line with statutory Master Plan provisions in the last 10 years?
- On what basis have the informal sector provisions of the Master Plan approved by Parliament been substituted by a scheme (mooted in the wake of PM's intervention) for haats even as the Master Plan landuse plan does not provide for haats?
- Why has DDA not responded since February to Vasant Kunj Rehri Patri Vyapari Ekta Manch's request (through numerous letters, a comprehensive report, a demonstration) for implementation of statutory Master Plan provisions and issuing of an interim letter to help stop harassment by others in the mean time?
- Why did DDA confiscate goods of hawkers in Vasant Kunj on 29 September, despite the PM's and LG's directions and even as it had not responded to the hawkers' request for space in DDA markets, etc according to the statutory Master Plan?
- Why did DDA demolish (without giving a written notice or even time / option for voluntary dismantling and with looting and burning) the hawker stalls that had been shifted under a purely interim arrangement through an unprecedented partnership between flat residents and hawkers from a problematic accident-prone location to the site for community centre (meant to have 110 hawker units under the Master Plan and lying undeveloped by DDA for 10-15 years)?
- Why has DDA not responded to the proposal of the Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj that local need shops that have come up unauthorisedly on the main road near Masudpur (in face of delay in development of community centre) be integrated in the scheme for community centre?
- Is it true that DDA has given the site meant for Vasant Kunj's community centre, including local shops and hawker space, to Delhi government to build its cyber centre? If so, what alternative scheme does it have for accommodating 500 local need shops and 110 hawkers envisaged in the statutory Master Plan and already existing unauthorisedly and brought to DDA's attention by citizens?
We decided that, on a matter of (stupid) principle, we should first try and approach our own Member of Parliament with these questions. All the groups who were demonstrating outside the DDA had already written to him from their demonstration. They had also requested our BJP Councilor (who had flamboyantly "lent support" on the last day of the demonstration and was considered "close" to our BJP MP) to get us an appointment since the Master Plan issues came in the purview of the Parliament.
On the matter of hawkers we had two additional reasons for being hopeful of our MP's intervention. One, he was none other than Sahib Singh Verma, who had arranged the public meeting at which the PM had addressed hawkers and rickshaw pullers after the announcement of his policy. Two, on October 17 (a day before the stunning demolition action) we had met him when he was in Vasant Kunj. He was inaugurating a shop (amidst the unplanned ones whose integration into the scheme for community centre the Federation had asked of DDA) less than 100 yards away from the community centre site. (Naturally, DDA enforcement staff, dutifully keeping watch on us, had not noticed the inauguration of an unplanned shop. And the local police, that dutifully does chowkidari for/against us, had been standing around for his "protection" as he did the honours). We had taken the opportunity to go and meet him. Our Councilor (who was attending the "BJP function" and was "displeased" with us for having engaged with the Congress MLA and CM) had wanted to know why we had come and why we did not call her "respectfully" when we wanted something. We had been spared the trouble of having to answer these strange questions as the MP had appeared and, possibly because he had mistaken me for a reporter on account of the camera that I happened to be holding, had agreed to spare two minutes. We had handed him a copy of one of our letters to the PM. He had said, "You want help. I will give. I am doing a lot for hawkers." As our Councilor rushed him, we had requested him to kindly go through our letter as our case was somewhat different, as our Councilor was aware for months, and at that moment rather urgent. Before our Councilor had hurried him away, we had also managed to request that his office kindly let us know his views, etc.
After the demolition on October 18, our former MLA (also BJP) had also said he would also put in a word with our BJP MP and get the MPISG an appointment. Some flat residents (with BJP connections) also called his office for the same over the next few days. However, we were unable to get an appointment with him. Finally, I faxed a letter to his office on November 9, with reference to our brief interaction on October 17, outlining the hawkers' case and saying:
"A number of groups who are members of Vasant Kunj Master Plan Implementation Support Group have been trying to engage your attention on this and related matters. As an urban planner associated with these groups and as a member of your constituency I would like to add my personal request for an opportunity to discuss this serious concern with you in the hope that you will be able to raise it in the forthcoming session of Parliament."
I called up his office to say that we needed the appointment urgently as we had some questions we would like raised in Parliament. I was asked to fax the questions, which I did. I called again to ask for confirmation that our MP would be raising them, failing which we would like to approach other MPs. I got no confirmation. We then made a list of MPs and people who knew of MPs who might take up the matter and sent the questions to them as well. We got responses from two MPs.
While we waited for someone to want to see our film - especially since the SPA screening had been reported in two newspapers  - and for Parliament to take up matters relating to urban development, our Councilor seemed to be pursuing the matter of MCD hawking licenses here despite the PM's new policy of dismantling the licensing system. We decided this had to be resisted. The Federation, which had already written thrice to the Municipal Commissioner about the site that the hawkers had voluntarily vacated, wrote again On November 25th (again with copies to the LG and CM):
"It has been brought to our attention that more soil has been dumped at the site since and that MCD officials are saying that licenses are to be issued here in coming days... As mentioned in our earlier letters, we see no justification for the MCD to issue hawking licenses on our road when right behind the said location there is a vacant site for community centre that is required to have space for hawkers under the Master Plan. Accordingly, we request you to stop the scheme under which this is being done... Vasant Kunj Rehri Patri Vyapari Ekta Manch, a manch of bonafide hawkers here, claims that the list of names that MCD officials have drawn up for issuing these licenses includes individuals who are not hawking in Vasant Kunj or not hawkers at all. We request you to enquire into this allegation and, if it is found to be true, take necessary action against those found guilty of such undue favouritism."
As a "parallel strategy" we decided that if MCD officials came to insist that the hawkers rearrange themselves for licenses, they would politely but firmly insist on "No-objection" letters from the Police and the Federation before doing so.
On December 2, 2001 came complete collapse - of our "sangathan", our spirit. This is a difficult part chronicle and I would like to begin by reproducing the (only) two newspaper accounts of it.
HT South Delhi Live reported :
"Vasant Kunj saw one of the ugliest days of RWA politics on December 2 when the supporters of Sahib Singh Verma, MP from Outer Delhi constituency, allegedly manhandled a woman and beat up a resident of Rangpuri Basti. According to residents who had come to a meeting of a breakaway faction of the Federation of the Vasant Kunj RWAs, the incident could have gone out of control. "I saw Verma's men chasing a young man and then grabbing and hitting him. It was a shameful incident that we would never forget", said a resident. "The Councilor also behaved in a churlish manner," said Mrs. Rekha Ralhan of pocket D-3. Sahib Singh Verma could not be contacted despite several attempts. Reportedly, chairman of the breakaway faction of the Federation K.K.Nigam and general secretary A.K.Mohindra have already tendered their resignation and the meeting was called under the name of an acting chairman. Chairman of the Federation O.N.Shukla has condemned the incident. "It has left a bad taste," he said. Most of the residents see the scrimmage as cheap politics between RWAs in the run up to the municipal elections."
Neighbourhood Flash reported :
"It was another attack on the drive started by hawkers of Vasant Kunj to fight for their right as per the provisions of Delhi's Master Plan. This time it was the local MP and former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma and his supporters who allegedly manhandled them, when they were shouting slogans against him. The MP was attending a meeting in Vasant Kunj last Sunday along with the local councilor Bimla Chaudhary. Eyewitness accounts allege that the councillor and the MP's male supporters also assaulted senior town planner and a resident Geeta Dewan Verma. All this, reportedly, took place in the presence of the local police. According to residents present at the meeting, the meeting convened by the Forum of RWAs was going on smoothly until a group of hawkers and Geeta reached the venue and started shouting slogans. "Singh told them that he would listen to them separately, as it was not the right forum. He asked them to meet him through a delegation. But the group did not obey. Geeta Dewan Verma had brought about 80 people from Rangpuri and was taking photographs and instigating people. We were in the meeting. When Sahib Singh went out and did not come back, we went out and saw there was a severe argument going on and then Geeta Dewan came inside with the Councilor and apologised for disruption in the meeting," said Sector-B, Pocket-XI vice-president B R Arora. Another eyewitness Rekha Ralhan of D-3 & 4 said, "When she was taking the photograph the supporters of Sahib Singh manhandled her. I saw the MP slapping a person wearing a white shirt and the Councilor was holding Geetaji and she was weeping. Her face was red. It was undemocratic. Everyone has the right to express his views and oppose openly. What sort of message did the MP send to the people?" she asked. The Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj secretary A K Mehta also said, "Whatever the provocation the politicians should not have taken the law in their hands." Contrary to allegations by residents, councillor Vimla Chaudhary said, "Jyada kuch nahin hua. Tu tu mein thodi si ho gayee. Who lady sabko bhadka rahi thi. Bhaijee, usne yeh likh ke di hai ki Shukla ji ke kehne par who wahaan ayee thi". According to another eye-witness M.K.Pandita of C-3, when the town planner was asked who had informed her about the meeting, she was confused and mentioned the names of various individuals, including that of Shukla. However, manhandling of the lady was undemocratic. Whatever happened was a shame and the MP set a bad example. Though the police was there, you can well guess as to whom they would support," Pandita said. But Shukla said, "I advised Geeta to go and seek an appointment with the MP, as the hawkers were trying to meet the MP for along time and we had information that questions related to hawkers and other matters of the area were to be raised in Parliament." Eyewitness alleged that Geeta was forced to beg a public apology and the MP and councilor threatened that a case of instigating people against them would be filed if she did not give in writing that it was her mistake and she would never repeat such an act. Former chairman of the federation Yogesh Khanna said, "Geeta disrupted the meeting. This has created a bad impression and we have to think twice before organising such programmes. This is a loss for the entire area." A dazed Geeta Dewan refused to comment on the issue. In spite of repeated endeavours Sahib Singh Verma was not available for comment."
I will digress from the story of hawkers to make my position vis-à-vis "RWA politics" clear. Till the end of the last millennium our RWAs confined themselves to their mandate of routine and mundane tasks of cleaning, greening and securing. Most of us outside them knew nothing of their "politics" beyond occasional and petty "scandals" about embezzlement of funds or, more commonly, use of gardeners, security staff, etc appointed for common work for personal work. Nor did we know anything about their Federations and what they were meant to do. All that changed in the year 2000. Shiela Dikshit's Congress government came out with its scheme of Bhagidari and RWAs came into the limelight to start doing some sort of surrogate governance. Many old-fashioned citizens like myself were rather bewildered by the range of things our RWAs were doing or wanting to do purportedly on our behalf.
Already in May 2000 I had objected vehemently in writing to our RWA's plans to fight Jagmohan's drive against illegal additions and alterations in flats through a court case. And in November 2000 I had written to the LG (in his capacity as Chairman of DDA) to protest against the allotment of sites for hospital and sports complex in the area earmarked green / agricultural on the request of some RWAs. Having outlined my objections on grounds of the sites being inappropriate in terms of access, etc and falling in an area for which zonal plans had yet to be prepared / approved, I had said:
"I could have approached my RWA to make this correspondence. But, frankly, after the stance they took on unauthorised additions to flats, I do believe RWAs would be best left to handle their original mandate of maintaining lawns and managing security, rather than be allowed to interfere with planning and development controls in the name of bhagidari."
Not having received a response from DDA, in January I had written to the minister, Jagmohan:
"...A while ago a newspaper told us that we finally had something to smile about because the CM (responding to our(?) request) had agreed to give us a hospital - on a site that is singularly unsuited for such a use on account of unsuitable access and likely problems of hazardous waste handling. More recently newspapers told us that another of our dreams had come true because the LG (responding to our(?) request) had agreed to give us our very own Dilli Haat - on one of several possible sites earmarked for other uses. Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to either obtain from DDA copies of relevant zonal plans and notifications for amendments therein. Nor have I been able to elicit any response to the basic question of how bhagidari can bestow on certain people the privilege to take landuse planning decisions in respect of public land. ...I feel that the direction that the current brand of bhagidari seems to be taking is rather injurious to the health of our cities and dangerous to the redefinition of the nature of urban governance in the new millennium."
In January 2001, when our RWA, with the support of our Congress MLA, began getting bore-wells dug here through the Delhi Jal Board despite a ban for serious environmental reasons on ground water tapping, I became extremely alarmed. Since my RWA only kept saying we needed water and our MLA was being so helpful, I was forced to call up the Central Ground Water Authority. I have it in writing from them that they had granted special permission for just four bore-wells to be dug in all of Vasant Kunj, though, with the help of our very helpful MLA our very own RWAs had over fifty dug by the end of the year. In early 2001 I had made myself extremely unpopular with several RWAs on account of my criticism through the press of their illegal boring efforts. On the other hand, some got in touch with me to talk about why I was so concerned. Through these discussions I realised that I had been too hasty in my inference that all RWAs were willfully subverting planned development for cheap politics. At least some of them seemed willing to modify their stance based on a more informed perspective. And that was when I decided to try and do more than be critical of what bhagidari was doing to planned development.
In April 2001 I approached the Federation of RWAs with a request to be given an opportunity to place at their next meeting some information about how subversion of planned development would create immense long-term problems for residents. I did not know the Federation Chairman personally. I had come to know his name through newspaper reports about Vasant Kunj and had found his number in the local residents' directory. I was quite overwhelmed by his response. He not only gave me a long hearing but also immediately agreed that what I had to say was serious and slotted time for me to speak at the forthcoming Federation meeting. At the meeting nearly everyone present agreed we needed to do something to ensure that Vasant Kunj grows according to Plan and does not become a water-less slum and it was decided that over coming weeks we would have meetings to discuss specific issues in different pockets. That was how flat residents in Vasant Kunj began to engage with DDA on Master Plan issues.
At the time I had no idea that there was a "breakaway faction" of the Federation. There was also no occasion for me to find out because the Federation chairman, while lending his whole-hearted personal support, very democratically left it to individual RWAs (Vasant Kunj has about 30) the decision to make further efforts in this matter. To facilitate this, he wrote to the DDA on general matters concerning all of Vasant Kunj and obtained from it a copy of the approved layout plan. A background note was sent to all RWAs and several meetings were held in the summer. A number of RWAs took up matters of specific departures from the layout plan by writing to DDA. A few, on the other hand, were totally indifferent inasmuch as that they did not even want to hold a meeting to talk about the layout plan. Since I was only engaging with the RWAs as a concerned planner I had no reason to have anything to do with these. By and by I came to know that these formed the core of the "breakaway faction". At least one other "drifted" there in the course of the year and stopped engaging. Of the ones engaging with some amount of orchestration of effort also there were some that were on equally cordial terms with both the Federation and the "breakaway faction" and some that felt that its status should not be acknowledged. I had no reason to become embroiled in the Federation's factional politics. The Federation Chairman, who was obviously interested in the matter, had the locus standii to represent us on larger issues in bhagidari and the several RWAs that had taken it up had their own locus standii on pocket-specific issues. It was these individuals and associations that became interested in understanding planned development (starting with connecting problems in their own pockets to departures from the approved layout plan) who soon saw the synergy between their interests and those of "others" in Vasant Kunj. This, I must admit, was what I had hoped might happen when I first approached the Federation. My slum clients had decided that if they did not hear from DDA by July 5 (demolition "anniversary') they would start demonstrating and I did not want them to be misunderstood and for DDA or anyone else to try "divide and rule" tactics. At the same time, this was not the only reason for my trying to engage with the "difficult middle class" because, as a planner, my loyalties lie as much with my clients as with my professional responsibility of ensuring that all see the worth of planned development.
What I was doing with several RWAs in mid 2001 was also giving me an insight into the dynamics of bhagidari, which interested me academically for its usual and potential impacts on planned development. The fact that some RWAs were on board and others not in the engaging on Master Plan issues opened up immense opportunities for trend watching and I was, simultaneously, doing a loose documentation. A trend that I found rather significant related to the changing equation between our politicians and the middle class. Our RWAs had taken to inviting and garlanding our elected representatives to request as favours routine operation and maintenance (such as street light or road repair) that are ours by right as taxpayers as well as extra benefits (illegal bore-wells, hospital, etc) that we aren't entitled to. This largesse doling style of governance, I thought, had erstwhile been limited to slums but bhagidari seemed to have empowered our elected representatives to expand their feudal empires. And by asking and accepting favours by way of illegal / unplanned development, we (as ordinary middle class as opposed to specific sections like those with illegal additions or shops / industries in homes, etc seeking regularisation "help') were in some senses becoming their accomplices in subverting planned development. That, naturally, left us with no tongue in our mouth to object to their much more detrimental subversive activities. In July, I had written to our MLA (with a copy to the CM / bhagidari chairperson): "...to raise some fundamental questions that are relevant beyond Vasant Kunj (hence the copy to the CM). I am sure you will agree that planned development is essential and that in the short-term successive governments should take us forward in the direction of the goals of the blue print for medium/long-term planning. I am also sure you are aware that, in any case, the statutory Master Plan is binding on all and the government's fullest support in securing its implementation in the interest of the people is expected. My questions emanate from this perspective: What does your government normally do to check Master Plan violations? (For instance, the entire car repair mart near your office, the markets near Masudpur, farmhouses to the south, etc are serious departures from the Plan, with serious implications for Vasant Kunj) What does your government normally do to ensure it does not itself set a bad example? (For instance, Delhi government is giving us a hospital on a site that is neither meant nor appropriate for one. Your own office, the roadside police canteen, etc also set poor examples) What does your government normally do to ensure pro-people implementation priorities? (With people agitating about "backlog" of housing, livelihood and education related provisions, the government's priorities (flats, fancy offices, "international" centre, etc) seem obviously misplaced) What does your government normally do to itself avoid pursuing anti-people priorities? (Delhi Government's proposed Cyber Centre will occupy space meant for, among others, 500 shops and 110 hawkers that already exist, albeit "unauthorisedly" around the site. Surely people's "needs" must have priority over government's "wants') * What does your government do to synergise other interventions with Master Plan goals? (I wonder, for instance, why "bhagidari" has not been structured within the ambit of the statutory Master Plan rather than become a freewheeling mechanism for arbitrary "development') Of course, I did not hear from him and I came to know that he had, in the typical ethnocentric perspective that characterises most of our politicians, gathered from my letter, etc, that my efforts were "against him".
Within this broader trend of the emergent nexus between our RWAs and local politicians, I found two things especially interesting. One was that for "big" politicians' visits our local politicians were beginning to mobilise us (rather, our RWAs) instead of "those slum walas". The other was that, like "those slum walas", our RWAs also made no distinction between MLC, MLA, MP, Minister. They treated them all at par as all purpose bara-admis to be garlanded with equal pomp and requested for help on all "problems'. The "problems" were somewhat contrived, largely limited to water (more boring or tankers), garbage, stray dogs, etc - almost in the vein of excuses for endless "meetings', to some of which I had started going to take notes or make videos as part of my "trend watching'. (That, in fact, was why I was at the MP's meeting in December, but to that I will return shortly).
A meeting that I was able to document on video was the one at which Delhi urban development minister A K Walia, at the invitation of our Congress MLA, met with RWAs at a platform arranged by the "breakaway faction" of the Federation. This meeting took place on September 19, days after the two-month long demonstration outside the Master Plan office had ended and days after the LG had held a meeting on hawkers in Delhi. Since the MLA had himself lent support to the demonstration in support of the Master Plan here, it could not have escaped his notice that a large number of people in Vasant Kunj were engaging on substantive urban development issues. Yet, none of these (including the Federation) were invited to the meeting that the urban development minister was to grace. Matters placed before the (urban development) minister, expectedly, related to water shortages, poor condition of roads/pavements/parks/drains, stray dogs/cattle, street lighting problems, etc. (Incidentally, it was at this meeting, when someone was making a speech to "thank" our MLA on our behalf, that I learned we had been gifted 48 illegal tube-wells by him). The minister benevolently issued instructions to government officers (who had been duly summoned) and the MLA even issued a cheque for street lighting out of the MLA fund. Some of those present (including residents of Rangpuri Pahari and hawkers) did try to raise (from the audience) more substantive urban development issues but were not given an opportunity to speak. Subsequently some (including the Federation and the samiti in Rangpuri Pahari) also wrote to the minister to seek another meeting, but got no response.
At the end of November, with another of the CM's bhagidari meetings coming up in December, I wrote to her a letter to make an "urban planner's suggestion for a Bhagidari principle', referring to the copy I had sent her in July of my letter to our MLA.
Many RWAs seem to lack... clarity on the... purpose of bhagidari as a process for streamlining governance and, instead, seem to view it as an "alternative" system... for: (a) "jumping the queue', so to speak, on delivery of routine services... at the cost of others and of longer-term and/or more holistic departmental plans. (This appears to be happening with most line departments and lately even our MLA was persuaded by some RWAs to issue a cheque out of the MLA fund for more streetlights. This is even as streetlights are something we pay for as taxpayers, even as departmental officials argue that street lighting here is better than in most places and even as there are, surely, other more worthy demands on the MLA fund). (b)
cornering... benefits that they are not entitled to under the law... (For instance, your government was persuaded by some RWAs to gift us a hospital... planned sites for health facilities here are yet to be developed... this hospital is to come up on a singularly inappropriate site... An even more alarming instance is of ground water tapping... CGWA had granted special permission for 4 borewells. But on the request of RWAs, over 50 have been dug here. With a large number of these already running dry, there are alarming geo-safety implications for Vasant Kunj, besides serious long-term implications for the water situation in Delhi, as we are practically on the ridge). Some agencies appear not to put any premium on citizens' participation despite our duly elected government's commitment to it. Over the last year, DDA in particular, has demonstrated utter indifference to citizens' legitimate concerns here with a consistency that can only be described as utterly appalling in the capital of the world's largest democracy... [I outlined the experiences of the Federation, RWAs, slum residents, students, hawkers] In view of the above... three suggestions for your consideration: One, it might help to distinguish clearly between, on one hand, routine O&M activities and, on the other, pro-active developmental activities in the Bhagidari agenda. Two, in both these sub-agendas... identify larger statutory and planning frameworks within which citizens' initiatives must be confined so as not to inadvertently jeopardise other interests. (Pro-active development, for instance, must remain within the ambit of the Master Plan, which takes a holistic view of the city and was approved by Parliament...). * Three, it might be useful to take an area-based rather than sectoral view to Bhagidari for operationalising the above. In Vasant Kunj, for instance, if instead of just RWAs of flat residents other citizens' groups were also included within the ambit of Bhagidari, the pursuit of public interest without conflict would be considerably facilitated.
Till the morning of December 2 our BJP MP's visit to Vasant Kunj, at the invitation of the same "breakaway faction" of the Federation that had invited our Congress Minister in September, was for me just another promising case-study in my on-going documentation. I was tracking, on one hand, how some of our RWAs and our elected representatives were flexing political muscle - purportedly on our behalf - in their own petty politics and, on the other, how our "senior leaders" were happily taking these opportunities for scoring cheap brownie points for routine municipal grievance redressal. As in the case of the public meeting called for the Minister, I was not an invitee to the public meeting called for the MP. As in the case of the Minister's visit, I had heard of the MP's visit from several people, including the Federation Chairman, some RWAs, flat and slum residents who were "politically active", besides hawkers near the venue. As in the case of the Minister's visit, these people had mentioned the MP's visit to me because they felt that matters I was engaging on with my various clients here were more worthy of the time of the visiting dignitaries than routine municipal grievances. As in the case of the Minister's visit, I had suggested to my clients that they come to the meeting and seek an opportunity to be heard on their home turf (after all, in the non-bhagidari days our netas addressed public gatherings of the poor, not middle class!). As in the case of the Minister's meeting, I had reached (with my video camera) the venue of the MP's meeting before the meeting started to find myself a camera angle where light and (my short) height would not be a problem. As in the case of the Minister's meeting, at the MP's meeting also, while my arrival evoked cold - even disapproving - looks, no one asked me either to leave or to not film.
To my clients, the MP's visit in December meant more than the Minister's visit in September. Firstly, although the Minister's visit had come after a long and tiring demonstration, they had little expectations from him because DDA does not come under Delhi government and they had not engaged with him before. The MP, on the other hand, was (besides being their elected representative) someone they had been trying to get an appointment with for quite some time now. They had already been a little "upset" that, despite requests through the Councilor and sufficient press coverage, their MP had not lent support to their demonstration and were now "upset" that he was going to visit Vasant Kunj but not them. Secondly, the timing of the MP's visit imparted, in their view, greater urgency to their claim on his time. Parliament was in session and a Parliament question had been fielded from Vasant Kunj by them and not by RWAs and they felt that their MP should be discussing that rather than municipal grievances that these RWAs typically raised with political leaders. Thirdly, after having failed to engage the Minister's attention through letters after his visit here, they did not wish to be similarly ignored by their MP and wanted to engage him while he was here. Fourthly, they knew that, besides the Councilor, the former (BJP) MLA - who was held in high regard - would also be present and felt that he would "help" them. This hope was also premised on the fact that the former MLA had been extremely sympathetic about the whole issue when he had met me (after inviting me through a friend at her flat) on October 18. In view of all this, they had decided they would come to the MP's meeting.
On December 2 at about 10:30 AM I reached the park where the meeting was arranged. At the entrance to the shamiana, where I would normally have stood to shoot, the sun was directly in front. I found an unobtrusive position at the corner behind the dais. The MP arrived with his entourage, comprising of the Councilor, the former MLA and an assortment of the henchmen without whom our politicians don't move around. Police was also present in fair numbers. There were the usual fawning welcome speeches and garlanding by all the men and bouquet presenting by all the women for all the "dignitaries on the dais'. In what seemed to have become standard format, pre-identified RWA walas took turns to place before them different "problems being faced by residents of Vasant Kunj'. The "issues" for which the intervention of our representative to Parliament was being sought included, as always, water shortages, garbage on streets, condition of roads... Someone even "demanded" that illegal additions to flats, including construction of an additional floor on the roof, be regularised... I personally thought our MP was fielding these odd demands rather well and was short with those making them just once or twice.
Quite some time later, the entrance began to fill up as slum residents and hawkers began to arrive and (as always) stand quietly behind the chairs on which the flat residents sat. As their numbers grew, our Councilor took the mike and said, "People who have come from Rangpuri Pahari... come inside and sit down", pointing to the ground along the side of the shamiana that I faced from my corner. Obviously, to her slum residents and hawkers (many of whom live outside not just Rangpuri Pahari but also Vasant Kunj) looked all the same. The "uninvited" residents of Vasant Kunj entered at the invitation of the Councilor and sat down on the floor as asked. After waiting a while for the cue that did not come from the dais, one of them raised his hand and said, "May we talk about our Parliament Question?" Simultaneously, our Councilor took the mike and said, "This meeting is for flat walas, your problems cannot be discussed here..." Our MP, being, perhaps, a more consummate politician, walked across to the side and said, "We won't let your jhuggis be demolished".
That was when I panicked. I knew my clients well enough to know that they would not tolerate such a patronising remark and I prayed they would not react in a manner that would be misunderstood. That was when - and why - I walked across, behind the dais, to their side. The samiti adhyaksh, who was also the spokesperson for the "others" in the Master Plan Implementation Support Group, was saying, "Stopping that we are managing on our own and, in any case, don't mind on our terms. We are here to talk about something else...". Our Councilor was going on saying something loudly into the mike. Some flat residents were also loudly crying foul. As our MP turned to return to the dais, I said (in desperation and in English), "Sir, they have a question in Parliament that they would like to speak with you about... Both the Councilor and the former MLA know". I appealed to the former MLA to explain... One of the MP's henchmen said to me, "Who are you?" using the "Tu" rather than "Aap" form of address. I snapped at him, "Who are you? Not my MP, surely?" (using "Aap")...Everybody seemed to be talking all together and I suggested to those around me that we leave. I walked out and some others came with me. Others began to follow.
As we came out of the shamiana, one of the men who had come out with me said, "Parliament is in session and our MP has time to come here and talk to them about their garbage problems, but not to talk to us about our Parliament question!" Another said, "We should at least raise slogans against him." Some one else said, "What's the point?"... Inside, the MP was saying into the mike that he was here at the invitation of flat walas and would also spare time to listen to the others some other time. The Councilor was also saying some things in her usual aggressive manner. Those outside, who had just commented on the MP's "priorities" did not take kindly to his remark and were also commenting loudly. Then some of the MP's men came out and started loudly abusing us... As they collared someone, the gentleman who had said we should at least raise slogans against what was happening looked at me and I said we must object, we must raise slogans. And we did. We said, "Sahib Singh Verma Hai Hai". We were objecting to our MP's "priorities" and to the abusive treatment by his supporters. Later our MP said that the slogans were raised just after he had said he was willing to meet a delegation the next day and was expecting, if anything, slogans in gratitude. I personally think that, for those who had been talking to and around me just after we came out, his remark would have been as much a cue for raising the slogans they did raise as the treatment at the hands of his men. Be all that as it may, we had become guilty of "disrupting" an RWA meeting by raising slogans against our MP. But that was just the beginning of this ugly snapshot of the state of our democracy...
Our MP and former Chief Minister left the dais, strode out, caught hold of the Samiti adhyaksh and started abusing and thrashing him. His henchmen collared others. Our Councilor kept up her tirade of shrill abuses. It was an elderly slum lady - the Pradhan of another slum - who held our MP's hand, saying, "It does not look good for you to do this, Sir". Just then our Councilor spotted me. I still had my camera in my hand. She said, with some choice expletives, "She's the one who instigated them... she told them to raise slogans and she would take pictures... Get her!" The same henchman who had asked me who I was stepped towards me. I held my hand up and told him to stay away and put my camera into its bag and turned around and walked to outside the gate of the park. A resident walked out, grinned at me and said, "I raised your point about local enrollment in schools." I found his remark so surreal. Did it matter? Did anything matter when our own representative to Parliament was standing there beating us up? And our (lady) representative to the Corporation was cheaply abusing us in public? ...I do not normally have any great expectations from contemporary civilised society, but I still think this was no way for anyone (including our politicians and their men as well as the gentleman who'd just spoken to me) to behave in any kind of civilised society.
As the grinning resident walked away, very pleased with himself for having raised a clever point before our elected representatives who were making a spectacle of themselves, and I turned back to look at the said spectacle, more out of habit out of helplessness than anything else, I took out my camera. That was a stupid mistake. From the distance at which I stood, with fencing and foliage in between, I wasn't going to get any pictures, nor sounds. But the sight of me with my camera provoked our easily provoked Councilor to order her goons to beat me up and take my camera. Three men ran out at her command and, in broad daylight in a respectable housing area with police standing yards away, pinned me down on the pavement. I started screaming and it was some hawkers and a slum resident who pulled them away. Unfortunately for the slum resident, he was a BJP worker and our BJP Councilor screamed, "How dare a BJP worker help this woman. Beat him up!" And some of her other "workers" beat him up till he was bleeding. While they were at it, she demanded, "Why have you left her?" And the three men were all over me all over again till they took my camera. ...I don't normally think of myself as being entitled to any special privileges for being a woman, but I still think this was no way for any woman to be treated by men (ordered by a woman) in civilised society.
Our MP came out and raised his hand and put it on my shoulder. I said, "Please... no one touch me!" He was obviously offended. He asked me to come inside so we could talk. As we moved in, he said, "Why did you ask them to raise slogans against me, promising to take pictures?". I kept saying I did nothing of the sort, that video footage was no novelty for them. All that was needed to find out the truth was to play back the footage right now - or leave it in the custody of the police to play back later - as it would have my voice along with everyone else's (louder and clearer, if anything, since it was a hand-held camera). And it would become clear how and why the sloganeering started. But he kept saying I had "instigated the public". Frankly, I did not understand what I was being accused of. Here was a duly elected MP, a duly elected MLC and a former duly elected MLA. They had all asked "the public" to quietly take what they were offering it. According to them, "the public" instead of listening to all of them had "obeyed" me to raise slogans against them instead. What gave them the right to think of "the public" that they were meant to represent as a mindless mass? And of me, also part of their "public", as one driven just like them? ...I normally have no expectations from the average politician at all, but I still think this, besides the violence, was no way for people to be treated by their representatives in a civilised society.
I reached, with our MP, the other side of the table on the dais. I turned around and saw only a hostile crowd. Slum residents and hawkers were all "kept" outside the shamiana. Inside there were only the RWA walas (except the ones that had left, some of them in disgust), the politicians and the politicians' henchmen. My MP, who had invited me inside to "talk" took the mike and said I should be "condemned'. The very obliging RWA walas agreed I should be condemned. I said, at least hear me out... My MLC said I extort money from hawkers and slum residents. The very obliging RWA walas said they also "knew" I extort money from hawkers and slum residents. I said I take a token fee of Re.1 per meeting (from the group, not per head) payable if and when DDA delivers and people like me can easily make day rates in dollars and don't need to resort to "extortion"... One of the convenors of the meeting said I should apologise. The very obliging RWA walas agreed I should apologise. I said I apologise... Perhaps taken aback by the anti-climax and wanting more of the spectacle they had begun to enjoy, someone else said I should apologise in writing... I had no expectations from these particular RWAs on larger issues as I had seen them in action, but I still think that this was no way for those meant to mind residents' welfare to treat, rather humiliate, any resident.
Clutching for straws, I asked for pen and paper. They wanted to dictate an apology, but I was determined to use this opportunity to try and clear the misunderstanding and put things in perspective, my confused state of mind notwithstanding. I never saw my "written apology" again, but this is what I recall of it. They asked me to write I was sorry for having come here to unpleasantly disrupt their meeting. I wrote I regret that their meeting was disrupted by an unpleasant incident and that this happened in the presence of our Hon'ble MP, Hon'ble MLC and former Hon'ble MLA. They said they hadn't asked me to write the latter. I said but I regretted that most. They asked me to write that I had been sent here by the Federation Chairman. I wrote that I had come to know of the meeting from several people who knew I had been seeking an appointment with the MP to discuss substantive issues concerning Vasant Kunj and mentioned some names, starting with but not limited to that of the Federation Chairman. They said they had just asked me to write the name of who sent me. I said I had just written the fact as it was. This sort of a thing went on till our astute MP seemed to figure out something was odd. He said you write there has been a misunderstanding and you will not do such a thing again. I wrote I regret very much the misunderstanding and have no intention to ever come again to an RWA meeting on municipal grievances in the hope of discussion on a Parliament Question. The MP said what has all this to do with a Parliament Question. I said everything, since that was what these people had come to talk about. Our MP left at that point. Our Councilor and some RWA walas reached out for my "written apology". Before handing it to them I added the "request" that my video camera that had been taken away be kindly returned to me in view of this apology and put down my full name, address, phone numbers and perhaps even my e-mail address. The RWA walas were complaining about how their "arrangement" had gone waste because of me. Our MLC was continuing to say that I was an instigator, rioter, extortionist and whatever else she pleased. I said why don't you call the people standing outside and ask them. She said she had already asked them and continued to badmouth me. I said you all asked me to write an apology and I have written it. At least now hear me out. I am not a cheap politician. I am a professional planner. And some RWA wala said that then I should anyway be in jail, as suggested by an eminent writer in the Times of India last week... I have no idea about the professional credentials of that person, but I still think he had no right to say that to a professional in a civilised society. But he was only parroting what a leading columnist had said in a leading national daily without evoking any protest from those in charge of my profession... That was when I started crying ...in public.
Me, the Planner...
And after that, two co-professionals in different places sent me copies of the press release of the HUDCO co-sponsored seminar and the ToR of the SPA study. I had been a consultant to and, for just over a year, a senior fellow in, the research and training wing of HUDCO and SPA was my alma mater. I felt very embarassed about my, let's admit it, "exaggerated arrogance about the merit of urban planners"! On December 31, with no cause left to celebrate New Year eve, I wrote to the Minister of State in the MoUD in despair (with New Year greetings, of course):
"I have a copy of a press-release of a recent national seminar (co-sponsored by HUDCO) that has recommended provisions for hawking in urban Plans, etc. I have also a copy of the ToR of a SJSRY research study for Rs.4.2 lakhs just commissioned to School of Planning and Architecture, (spatial planning) objectives of which pertain to the same. In the light of the experience of Vasant Kunj's hawkers (my clients) whose tireless efforts have failed to persuade DDA to implement and others currently debating urban hawking to even note existing Master Plan provisions for hawkers, I beg your indulgence to make a small comment. I feel there is no merit in spending taxpayers' money on research and seminars premised on the need for spatial planning solutions when a Parliament approved solution already exists. If at all public investment is to be made in research and seminars on the subject of plan provisions for hawking, the focus needs to be on systematically assessing adequacy of existing provisions and reasons for their non-implementation. After all, it is hardly worthwhile to invent new or better wheels if those in charge in government as well as in civil society are unwilling or unable to roll them or even acknowledge that they exist. ... Vasant Kunj's hawkers seem to be the only ones taking Master Plan provisions for hawkers seriously and it does seem rather sad that their efforts have got them nowhere. In our brief meeting on 13 November 2001 you had kindly promised to enquire into their case as well as to spare time to view the film I have put together on their experiences. As more premier institutions join the ongoing debate on the hawking problem without reference to the Parliament approved solution implicit in Delhi's Master Plan, I request again an opportunity to place before you the details of my clients' case."
This time I even put in my professional qualifications, etc under my name to make sure I wasn't mistaken for a wannabe politician or anything else. I faxed a copy of the letter to the CMD, HUDCO (in continuation of my fax of 23 July and my presentation at the Planning Commission on 24 August 2001). And I faxed a copy to the Director, SPA (in continuation of my film screening in SPA on 8 November and the copy of my rejoinder dated 30 November 2001 to Mr Aiyer's column). I also faxed copies to CMO, PMO and LG Secretariat (in continuation of earlier correspondence about / from / on behalf of Vasant Kunj Rehri Patri Vyapari Ekta Manch). And to CVC (in continuation of the film screening on 12 December and my note of 19 December). And to Dileep Padgaonkar (in continuation of the rejoinder I had sent on November 30)...
Of course, I knew I was only increasing my fax bill. But that is the sort of thing you do when you can't do nothing and there is nothing you can do. A planner is not expected to commit hara-kiri just because she is not managing to do anything about subversion of planned development - or is she?
We, the People...
On Monday, January 21, in the week before Republic day (which fell on Saturday this year), our Councilor came and ordered the hawkers in the vegetable market outside the community centre site to demolish their shops. She was going to issue hawking licenses on the road just a wee bit away from the junction - right in front of The Wall that DDA had built. On Tuesday, January 22 iron angles for construction of shops arrived on the site. On Wednesday, January 23 the iron angles were up early morning, presumably after a hard night's work. In the evening the same day, the following complaint was lodged by some residents in the local police station:
This is to request immediate intervention in stopping the move to issue hawking licenses - including to persons currently not hawking here - on the busy stretch of Vasant Kunj's main road outside DDA's site for community centre near Masudpur Central market. This request is made in view of the following:
- The Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj has objected (vide letters dated 10th, 14th and 17th October 2001 to the Municipal Commissioner - with copies to Deputy Commissioner (Nazafgarh Zone) as well as LG and CM) to issuing roadside hawking licenses in Vasant Kunj. Hawking licenses should not be issued on this location pending MCD's response to the residents' legitimate objection.
- MCD and DDA have been effecting removal action against Vasant Kunj's (bonafide) hawkers who operate on roadsides here. Hawking licenses should not be issued on locations from where (bonafide) hawkers are routinely removed.
- Bonafide hawkers in Vasant Kunj also have no interest in remaining on roadsides and have submitted (in May 2001) a detailed proposal to DDA for accommodating them in markets, etc under statutory provisions of Delhi's Master Plan. Their request is being processed (as per a note dated 19th October 2001 from DDA to PMO, copy of which was sent to the hawkers' manch here). Hawking licenses should not be issued in unplanned locations while the hawkers' own proposal for planned space under the statutory Master Plan is under consideration by DDA.
- The PM's policy for hawkers, widely reported in the media in August-September 2001, calls for dismantling the hawker licensing system altogether. The scheme for hawkers announced by MCD subsequently also spoke of hawking permission only in designated haats, not on roadsides. Hawking licenses should not be issued on roadsides in view of latest policy / scheme of the MCD.
- Joint Commissioner, Delhi Police has said in a journal article as well as at a national workshop that a major problem faced by Police is that MCD issues hawking licenses at places that residents later object to. The Federation of RWAs of Vasant Kunj has also written in the matter of Vasant Kunj's hawkers to the Joint commissioner on 10th October 2001. Police should not allow hawking licenses at this location to be issued in view of the fact that residents have already objected in advance.
- On October 18th a purely interim arrangement for shifting (bonafide) hawkers operating at the same location to the vacant community centre site (to have space for hawkers under the Master Plan) was summarily demolished in the presence of the Police. This arrangement was in line with existing law and policy and was made jointly by residents and hawkers (the only bonafide stakeholders in the matter) in view of DDA's assurances. The matter of the demolition, etc has been taken up with the Ministry as well as the Central Vigilance Commission in December 2001. Hawking licenses on the same location in violation of existing policy/law should not be issued while redress is awaited against the high-handed action against citizens' own effort within the ambit of the law.
Prima facie, there is no basis for hawking licenses to be issued on the roadsides in Vasant Kunj and the move to do so seems to be politically motivated in the run up to the municipal election. Residents of Vasant Kunj are already severely affected by all manners of illegal development on the road margins and there is no reason for their problems to be exacerbated by the ongoing move in view of all of the above. Your immediate intervention to stop the same is, therefore, requested.
On Thursday, January 24 copies of the same (duly receipted by the police station) were also faxed to the DCP, DC and CVC. At least two other residents also lodged the same complaint in the police station the same day and, perhaps, sent copies to the others as well.
Even as no action was taken or enquiry made by the police into the residents' complaint(s), by Friday, January 25, the shops had come up. By the hawkers' account the SHO was personally present at night when the shops were set up.
Although our Councilor claimed that she had inaugurated, along with one Mr S C Dey of one of our RWAs, a vegetable market after shifting the existing shops to facilitate road widening , anyone could see this was not true. The new shops were in the same alignment as the old one and did not permit road widening, SC Dey was President of the RWA of a pocket that is nowhere near the location, and the shops that were given hawking licenses were not vegetable shops. They were not even for trades that were normally considered hawking trades, including, for instance, an electric repair shop, a sanitary-ware shop, a furniture shop and two kabadi shops, etc. The electric repair shop owner, for instance, previously operated from a rented shop in one of the illegal markets near the site. He had come to one of our hawkers' meetings to ask that his name be included in our "list". I had advised him to write, instead, to DDA in the context of Master Plan provisions for low-turnover shops in its markets. At the time, he had found that a good idea. But apparently, he (and others) had found our Councilor's short cut more attractive. One of the kabadi shops, likewise, previously operated unauthorisedly from a location further west on the same main road. Dozens of people, from amongst the hawkers and slum residents told me, independently of one another, that the shops had cost the "allottees" Rs.1 lakh each.
Some of the real hawkers, on the other hand, were left on the road till their shacks were razed to the ground on Janaury 30 by a bulldozer. The bulldozer, perhaps in a bid to optimise deployment, also visited some other hawkers elsewhere in Vasant Kunj the same day. So much for the PM's intervention, not to speak of the hawkers' own efforts!
Simultaneously, DDA put up a board for a Local Shopping Centre on a site on the main road just west of Vasant Kunj (right opposite the erstwhile location of the kabadi shop lately issued a hawking license) and falling in the zone earmarked for rural and agricultural use .
The absurdity of the situation was beyond comprehension. With commercial sites within Vasant Kunj still undeveloped, DDA seemed desperate to play with new toys (with immense real estate potential). Low turnover shops meant to find place in its commercial centres (including both developed and undeveloped ones) were, meanwhile, being given hawking licenses (on the road right outside the site meant for them). And real hawkers (when not being vindictively bulldozed) were being left on the roads at the mercy of the merciless predatory state (despite their sustained efforts to get DDA to do what it should have done in the last ten years). And all this was happening in the dead of night as well as in broad daylight in the week of Republic Day.
On January 28 I Wrote to CVC about these developments, primarily to request copies of any letters he might already have written in the matter:
1. ...our MCD (at the initiative, it seems of our MLC) has disregarded the flat residents' concern as well as our bonafide hawkers to issue "hawking licenses" to shopkeepers dealing in sanitary ware, electrical goods, etc.
- On Wednesday 23rd a few residents had decided to complain about this development. At least one complaint was made in the local police station the same day. However, our Police, which had given protection to the high-handed demolition ... (shown in the film), has not taken any action on the residents' complaint.
- Also in the last week, DDA has put up a board for a "Local Shopping Centre"... It is ironical that a new local shopping centre is to be developed on virgin land while local shops are being given "hawking licenses" on the roadside.
At the MoUD-SEWA national policy dialogue on street vendors held in Vigyan Bhawan in May 2001, the minister had lamented "the hawkers' tendency to remain a hawker for the rest of his or her life". The actions of our government agencies here in the week before our Republic Day provide an insight into the subversive dynamics underlying the "hawkers' tendency". If DDA uses land meant for local shops to build grandiose schemes to serve some misguided vision of a "global city" and MCD issues "hawking licenses" to local shops and the police disregards residents' concerns to help it do so, surely the hawkers are left with no choice. The actions of DDA, MCD and Police here are in callous disregard of the concerns of both flat residents and bonafide hawkers and clearly motivated by other considerations that are not in the spirit of their mandates. And they are taking a terrible toll on the spirit of all those who have been tirelessly engaging in the pursuit of ensuring planned development here for over a year now. I am myself a little clueless about what to do in the face of such odds. In the politically charged climate in the run up to the municipal elections (if and when they happen) anything that the citizens here try to do through their organised groups is met with "reprisal", such as in the form of removal vans or direct intimidation by our elected representatives. It is in desperation that I am bothering you again to solicit your intervention. I would also like to request you for copies of any letter you have already issued in the matter and your permission to use the same to try and create some pressure through the media. I am hoping for a response.
Subsequently I also wrote to our Deputy Commissioner (MCD) in the context of his remark, reported in a news paper report on the new "market" that "if the Federation has any problem then they can ask us to reconsider the site" . (The Federation was too disheartened by this remark and saw no point writing again since its previous correspondence was being so denied.) I outlined the correspondence already made with the DC's office by the hawkers, Federation, etc and said:
"[In addition] the efforts of VKRPVEM regarding Master Plan provisions have been frequently reported in the press, besides which the Master Plan is a public document binding on all. It was, therefore, with surprise that I read your comment that suggests you are unaware of the fact that both bonafide stakeholders in the matter - residents and hawkers - would much rather have hawking in Vasant Kunj organised as per the statutory Master Plan than any other law or direction. Even otherwise, it is not at all clear why hawking licenses are being issued here:
- at all considering the PMO policy ...speaks of dismantling the licensing system
- to outsiders (even as bonafide hawkers require consideration by MCD under the PMO policy and, incidentally, have been assured by DDA of implementation of Master Plan...
- to those who are known to be shopkeepers, not hawkers (including from illegal markets whose integration into DDA's commercial centres has, incidentally, been requested...
- for non-hawker trades (including furniture, sanitaryware, electrical works, etc, even as there are, incidentally, specific Master Plan provisions for low turnover shops...
- complete with built-up stalls (although the normal practice...is just to mark pitches)
- even after bonafide stakeholders have objected to roadside hawking licenses (...vide complaints lodged in the local police station...with, I understand, copies to your office)
It is also not clear why MCD removal action has continued even after the PM's directions and, for instance, why were hawkers' stalls bulldozed today not only in the site outside the community centre but also elsewhere. In general, it is not clear why the Supreme Court's (and PMO's) directions for designating hawking zones are not being implemented within the ambit of the statutory Master Plan, which allows space for 3-4 lakh hawkers in Delhi - not on problematic roadsides, but in planned ways."
In the week before Republic Day, while our MCD, with the wholehearted support of our BJP Councilor, was selling our roadside to shopkeepers who were pretending to be hawkers and our DDA was putting up a big board for an entirely unplanned shopping centre, our Congress MLA was preparing for his Republic Day celebration - in an illegal farmhouse.
I also received one of the hundreds of invitations sent - on the official letterhead of our Hon'ble MLA, complete with our National Emblem. I fancy myself as a patriotic citizen of the Republic. But this was an invitation that I could not accept as a self-respecting planner. I was, under no circumstances, going to be party to the sanctifying of one Athena Gardens by no less than the hoisting of our National Flag and singing of our National Anthem in celebration of our Republic Day. I did not go.
It was small solace that I was not the only one who had noticed that this seemed, well, wrong. There was a newspaper report titled "MLA's lunch kicks up dust" with a caption "Farmhouse where function was held is illegal, say residents" . But, by all accounts, the celebration was extremely "successful" in the sense of being well attended. Besides our Hon'ble MLA, it was graced by one of our Hon'ble MPs (naturally of the Congress party). Local police was, naturally, present to provide protection to our Hon'ble representatives. Presumably at least some of our other public servants, besides nearly all of our welfare associations were also present. Our National Flag was hoisted. Our National Anthem was sung.
But what caught my eye (got my goat, if I may say so) in the reportage was what our SHO was reported saying about it by way of "explanation". He said: "I don't have any knowledge of the function. We were told that Mr Sajjan Kumar would attend a political function. Therefore, we provided the security-cover to the function. Anyway, we cannot stop a private party. The MLA must have organised it purely as a private function."
This was the same SHO who had, it may be recalled, described himself as Vasant Kunj's "chief chowkidar" on October 15. This is even as his police station, besides disregarding flat residents' complaints (such as the ones lodged on January 23 / 24), simply does not lodge, say, hawkers' complaints (except, perhaps, indulging the hawker it has "settled" to run its "police canteen"). Nor had he responded to their letters / request in February to hold removal action in abeyance pending DDA's response or in September to issue directions to his staff in view of the PM's directions. And I know for a fact that there are many that see no point in going to the police station. (I have been getting calls - even letters - "reporting" illegal boring, mafia style construction, harassment by DDA staff, etc to me even as I can do nothing, only because those calling are unwilling - even scared - to go to our SHO, but feel it is their duty to "report"). On the other hand, on October 17, as mentioned, our SHO had arranged security cover for what he, presumably, considered another "private function" at which our MP inaugurated an unplanned shop. On October 18 he had arranged security cover for DDA staff while they demolished, looted and burnt an effort within the ambit of the Master Plan and his men declined to show citizens' that they are meant to serve DDA's complaint or to lodge theirs. On December 2 he had arranged security cover, presumably for another "private function" in a public park, graced by our MP and Councilor, where citizens who had come to talk about a Parliament Question about the Master Plan were manhandled as his men stood yards away and watched. On January 23 / 24 he had arranged a sort of security cover for the night-time construction of shops for shopkeepers being given hawking licenses on our roadside with the enthusiastic support of our Councilor, despite residents' complaints. And on January 26 he had arranged security cover - in an illegal farmhouse - at what he felt (despite the date, the Flag and the Anthem) was a private and/or political function arranged by our MLA. Obviously even our "chief chowkidar", meant to protect us from lawlessness, seemed to see his job as primarily that of providing security cover to our politicians (even as they went about breaking laws), no questions asked - not even on Republic Day.
In Vasant Kunj there are about 100000 people. There is one MLA office. There is one Councilor. There are about three hundred office-bearers of (flat) residents' welfare associations. There are perhaps two dozen "nominated" pradhans, etc in the slums. There are some other "eminent citizens" - formerly (and possibly wannabe) elected representatives or senior officials of government or officers of our armed forces or NGO walas. In all, there are amongst the 100000 of us perhaps less than 500 persons whom perhaps twice as many public servants posted here consider "public representatives" (unless, of course, otherwise directed by the MLA or our Councilor). Our 1000 odd public servants seem to think that the easiest way to serve the 100000 strong public here is to wholeheartedly serve less than 500 public representatives. And our less than 500 public representatives here seem to think that the only way to continue being served is to devote themselves wholeheartedly to remaining public representatives or, at least, make whatever they can for themselves while they can. Democratically representing "the public" in the pursuit of people's aspirations - especially long-term aspirations, such as those about planned development - has no place in the short-term politics of survival. It is, after all, so much easier (beside, very likely, personally profitable) for our Councilor to get MCD to issue hawking licenses to a dozen petty shops on the MCD roadside than to engage with DDA for implementation of Master Plan provisions for hawkers and low-turnover shops for hundreds. It is so much easier (and profitable) for our MLA to get Delhi Jal Board to dig illegal bore-wells in face of declining supply from the planned ground water station than to engage on the problem of destruction of the recharge area of the same by rampant unauthorised farmhouses, etc. It is so much easier for our RWAs to establish credibility by flexing political muscle and getting the occasional bore-well (even if it dries up within a few weeks) or turning away demolition men (only till the next time) than to engage on longer haul efforts for more durable solutions. It is so much easier for "nominated" basti pradhans to become the politicians' conduits for non-priority assistance - such as brick paving or paltry loans in place of long overdue housing plots. (Besides, it is difficult for RWAs and pradhans to engage on - or even not resist / oppose others engaging on - anything that might turn against the politicians who have become their patrons).
As public servants and public representatives take care of one another and themselves, the public is left to take care of itself... Provided it does so in polite, unobtrusive ways that do not bother, even disturb, its servants and representatives, as they take care of one another with single-minded devotion to their misguided notion of their duty. Or in spectacular but absurd forms of bhagidari in contributing to cleaning, greening, policing and other jobs that its servants are paid for and its representatives are mandated to take care of on their own, so that they are spared a lot of tedious work. Or in ways that, for instance, contribute to rally tallies or otherwise help, especially its representatives, to score personal points in their own games. Under no circumstances may the public try to take care of itself by seeking rights (of its choice) instead of favours (of their choice) and without choosing a "patron" to align with and following other rules of the governance games that go on. Such a course of action gets it nowhere and is reckless, rash and risky, because its servants and representatives seem to consider it a punishable offence in our pseudo-democracy.
Nearly every snapshot in the photo-album of the emergent state of our Republic framed in this chronicle tells the same terrible, tragic truth... We, The People... far from remaining Supreme, have become reduced to some sort of substance to fill the foundation trenches of monuments that our servants and representatives in and out of government are constantly raising to celebrate themselves. For the rest, we are purely incidental in the portrait of anarchy being painted by them - in our name, to add insult to injury. We, The People, count... only as numbers in ballot boxes and all manners of project and progress reports. We, The People... are stuck with a very short straw.
 For a population of 100,000 (the designed population in Vasant Kunj) the Master envisages 20 convenience shopping centres with a total of 480 formal shops, 6 local shopping centres with a total of 330 formal shops and 1 community centre with 365 formal shops. Only 14 convenience shopping centres and 2 local shopping centres are fully developed and 2 more local shopping centres are partially developed.
 A total of 265 shops were counted in DDA’s convenience shopping centre, of which 82 were lying closed and 15 were being used for private offices, etc. Thus only 155 formal convenience shops were functional. In the local shopping centre that was developed quite early, a third of the shops are lying closed and the majority of the rest are car-repair shops. The local shopping centre developed more recently looks more like a city commercial centre with up-market offices and stores and hardly any local shops. In the local shopping centres that are partially developed also hardly any shops are functional. In all, of the 1175 formal shops envisaged under the Master Plan for a place like Vasant Kunj, less than 400 are functional.
 As per Master Plan norms, 60 fruit and vegetable shops are envisaged in convenience shopping centres, 36 in local shopping centres and 40 in the community centre. In some places the boards displaying layout plans of the markets indicate which shops are meant to be such shops. But no such shops are actually functional.
 As per Master Plan norms, space should have been provided for a total of 260 such units in convenience shopping centres, 132 in local shopping centres and 110 in the community centre. In some places this provision can be seen on the site, but it is not utilised. Noteworthy is the existence of a stand-alone structure comprising about 40 sheltered spaces on the site of an otherwise undeveloped local shopping centre. As per the Master Plan, a local shopping centre is envisaged to have only 22 informal units integrated into the overall plan. This separate market appears to have been constructed through some political intervention and is lying un-allotted for a decade. In other places, from boards outside the markets or for from two very different looking shop types, it is obvious that on the space meant for informal units formal shops have been built and auctioned.
 The proportion of retail and service trade in the informal units in Vasant Kunj, for instance, was very much line with the proportion for DDA. Also their locations – mainly near markets, outside schools, etc, at the gates of various pockets of flats, at bus and taxi stands, etc – were almost exactly as anticipated in the Master Plan.
 There were, for instance, about a hundred hawkers on the main roads around and near the yet to be developed site for community centre. There were about 65 hawkers on the stretch of road running between three proximous local shopping centres in the western part of Vasant Kun. Around other markets and market sites also the numbers were more or less as anticipated in the Plan.
 "Master Plan has space for us: VK hawkers", Express Newsline, May 23,2001; "Hawkers demand space at shopping centres", The Hindu, May 23 2001; "Master Plan ka paalan ho to kabze hatenge" [Encroachments will disappear if Master Plan is implemented], Hindustan, May 23, 2001
 At least one news report connected the Vasant Kunj’s hawkers’ request for implementation of Master Plan provisions for hawkers with the MoUD-SEWA workshop’s demand for such provisions ("Hawkers’ space: Jagmohan sanctions some old ideas", Express Newsline, May 31).
 Reported by Indian Express, Times of India and Dainik Hindustan. Convenor of a forum NGOs that was working on a people’s Master Plan sent me an e-mail to congratulate me “especially for managing to get Times of India to cover it”.
 Translated from Hindi. The Memorandum carried at the top a cartoon based on the story of the blind men and the elephant. At the smelly rear of the elephant, next to pile of dung, was a figure representing the current licensing regime, that said “Its very messy. Restrict it”. On the front site, leaning on the tusk, was a figure representing the current thinking, that said “Its so useful. Restrict the restriction”. The blurb oabove the "thinking" elephant said, “Does anyone remember the Master Plan at all?”
 "Hungry hawks catch Vasant Kunj vendors", HT South Delhi Live, October 3, 2001. Alongside the report was my "Point-of-View" (a regular interview-style section of the weekly page that reported the news). This tried to connect the episode reported to the failure of the policy dialogue to connect to the Master Plan provisions and is reproduced here: Why is the PM’s intervention not bringing relief to hawkers? Like most high-level interventions precipitated by appeals from well-meaning but poorly informed "civil society" it speaks too much of victims and too little about culprits in the "crime" of changing our welfare state into a "predatory state". But the PM has directed that police and MCD should not harass the hawkers? The police and MCD (along with RWAs, market associations, etc, not mentioned in the PM’s letter) are only opportunistic "accomplices" in this. The real "culprit" is DDA. Delhi’s Master Plan has adequate and explicit provisions for space for hawkers in markets, etc. If DDA, which is duty-bound to implement the Plan, had ensured legal space for hawkers, others would have no basis to harass them. Why are the Master Plan provisions so important? Restrictive licensing over-plays nuisance and liberal de-licensing overplays performance. The Master Plan has identified locations where hawkers can earn their livelihood without interfering with traffic, etc. The Master Plan is statutorily binding on all. For development discussions to make no reference to it reflects very poorly on the state of urban governance.
 Jagmohan, in his inaugural address "announced that the Minister of State for urban development and Poverty Alleviation, Sh Bandaru Dattatraya would be the in-charge in his Ministry to look after matters relating to street vendors. "I am giving you a blank cheque", Sh Jagmohan said alluding to his junior". (Workshop Report, p.11). In his valedictory address also, Jagmohan had "announced that Sh Dattatraya will be in charge of all the central schemes relating to the vendors/hawkers as he knows their problems" (p.34).
 I am amongst the "illustrious alumni" of this school, having completed in it both my undergraduate studies in architecture and post-graduate studies in planning with "gold medals" and have been on its visiting faculty for several years, though now I am more of a persona non grata there.
 As the election dates moved up the damage kept growing. In the slums, where residents had agreed to and were keeping a check on new jhuggis, the politicians "settled" their people strategically. Our duly elected representatives nominated new "pradhans" and handed them, for instance, loan forms to establish their credentials as conduits for political largesse. New "hawkers" also appeared in our midst. Our politicians also arranged transfers of some lower level (but key informant style) government functionaries to have others "closer" to them installed. Even the "Federation politics" came to be heavily influenced - even directed - by our netas. In the other half of Vasant Kunj, in addition to BJP and Congress, Ram Vilas Paswan's men were also in the fray.
 This e-mail was provoked by a rather silly incident. After my film screening in SPA, where the subsequent discussion had revolved largely around professional responsibility to stop the chaos in general and NGOs hijacking the planning agenda in particular, someone had walked up and said, "I'd like your CD". Partly because this was said in the tone that the cops used with the hawkers to say, for instance, "One glass of pomegranate juice...Large", I had responded rather sharply to ask who might be asking. And when I was told it was the employee of an NGO that was spearheading substantive Plan-bashing efforts, I had lost my temper. I myself don't walk into any classroom, etc, without invitation or permission. I had been showing my film in my school to my students and my colleagues for a private discussion amongst professionals. The notices had been put up only within SPA and other invitations had been sent only by me (after asking permission from the colleague who had arranged the screening in SPA) to a few friends who would have found the venue more convenient than my home. Here was someone who was here uninvited, had not had the courtesy to ask or even inform me of his presence at the beginning of the private screening and now was asking, quite arrogantly I might add, for my CD. Way more than for my "arrogance" I am notorious for my sharp tongue and I must have given him an earful. It was from his boss that I received this mail subsequently, saying, "I believe you had a good time publicly humiliating one of my colleagues after the screening of your film at SPA on 8th. I should congratulate you on your performance, but you should note that this is unacceptable..." etc, etc