ActionAid-NGO-run Night Shelter for 400 in Pushta, inaugurated by MCD Commissioner on 13.12.04, involves multiple Master Plan violations, contempt of court, violation of Art.14 of the Constitution, dubious partnership and frustration of citizens' rights for participation and accountability in development decisions and depicts alarming nexus and state of anomie.

Delhi Master Plan (Development Code Clause-8) lists activities permissible in various zones / premises and building controls for them. Night shelter is not permissible in use-zones like River & Water body (Pushta), in schools, etc, and on sites less than 800 sqm / not having access from 16 m road, etc. The MCD-ActionAid Night Shelter on the Pushta is illegal in terms of Master Plan Land Use, Master Plan restrictions for premises and Master Plan building controls.

On 03.03.03 Delhi High Court ordered authorities to "remove all unauthorized structures" from the riverbed. MCD schools, etc, on the Pushta are unauthorized in terms of the Master Plan, were set up only for settlements that MCD, etc, cleared by order of 03.03.03, and their continued existence and unauthorised use are unjustifiable and in contempt of court. MCD, etc, cleared Pushta in name of court and Night-Shelter-NGO premise acted as "camp" office.

Requests for use of surviving structures by those evicted went unheeded and, in unequal application of court orders, construction was going on in MCD buildings, whose use now for Night Shelter for few by those who rendered many homeless is violative of Art.14.

photo-album1: MCD buildings amidst Pushta clearance (April 2004) | photo-album2: Night-Shelter/Police NGO amidst Pushta clearance (April 2004)

MCD-ActionAid partnership (with GNCTD recognition/CM patronage) is based not on proven capability or open competition but on some PIL, unavailable even on request. After difficulty in getting its property back from Action-Aid, NDMC is running its Night Shelter without NGOs. Non-transparent basis and NDMC experience make MCD-ActionAid partnership dubious. Night Shelter in MCD facilities and/or Pushta requires Master Plan modification by s.11A Public Notice that gives citizens the right to participate in development decisions.

To "regularize" the identically illegal IT Park on the riverbed, for instance, Public Notice was issued on 18.09.04 and citizens used that opportunity to seek accountability about housing rights, evictions for wilful projects, etc. MCD-ActionAid Night Shelter, started without mandatory Public Notice while objections/suggestions filed u/s.11A for IT-Park (and applicable to the identically illegal Night Shelter) await disposal, frustrates citizens' right to participate / ensure accountability in development decisions. Indeed, public-private "partnership" for Night Shelter is hardly necessary and when forged regardless of procedures seems more like "nexus" for downsizing housing rights of all to NGO Night Shelter for few and abandoning statutory solutions / responsibilities for both night shelter and housing in pursuit of wilful evictions for wilful projects, etc.

Remarkably, at their Habitat Day celebration lately (01-04.10.04) in Delhi national "housing rights" NGOs specifically protested only eviction of Action-Aid by NDMC (complete with complaint to UN, etc) and among likely "beneficiaries" of Pushta Shelter are those whom MCD lately (27.11.04 onwards) evicted, without protest, for its partly commercial Civic-Centre that is not contemplated in the Plan and is arguably unjustifiable after the decision to trifurcate MCD.

photo-album3: Housing rights NGOs protest (04/10/2004) | photo-album4: Eviction for MCD Civic Centre (28/11/2004)

Since it carried out a survey in summer of 2000 to count about 53000 and interview 690 persons sleeping on pavements in Delhi, all that Action-Aid has to show in real terms is its paltry assistance to government to shelter a few hundreds and a lot of publicity for itself. The influence it wields in decisions about the homeless is not only irrational but also mischievous, as demonstrated at its "consultation" (attended by several senior government functionaries) on 25.07.03 - by problem-painting bordering on stigmatisation, summary "rejection" of solutions within ambit of law, strident advocacy for changing law to allow commercial use to Night Shelter NGOs, refusal to record dissenting views, etc. From a Night Shelter centred perspective of housing rights Action-Aid has, in effect, been obfuscating statutory development rights and solutions and most NGOs in Delhi now share its position to, in effect, promote illegal resettlement and Night Shelter - problem-sustaining options that afford "opportunities" for NGOs, while sparing land and other resources needed for statutory solutions for profitable diversion, in the process also making for atrophy in institutions.

These issues have been raised for long by citizens. That the "nexus" survives all safeguards signals a state of anomie, captured with rare clarity by illegal Night Shelter on the Pushta, with illegal IT Park happening across and bhagidari-greening all around - all dressed up also for the funeral they badly want to give to the ignominy of unlawful Pushta clearance. But ignominy thrives on shenanigans and, mercifully, questions about both also do survive.

Gita Dewan Verma | Planner | 19.12.2004

- Night Shelter Dossier5 of reports, letters, posts, etc, since 2000/2001 - MPISG letters of 18.12.2004 to Police for investigation u/s.34A, to MoUD for action against MCD, to DDA for consideration (u/s.11A process underway for the identically illegal IT Park on the riverbed) of earlier suggestion for lawful night shelter solutions.

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