Dear Planners,

Permit me to recall to you that I am a Planner with credentials and commitment that were considered impeccable till 1997 when I took a decision to practice differently. I have, since, been working exclusively as independent researcher and consultant only to citizens’ groups from the simple premise that the Plan is not a plannerly artifact but a document of entitlements and planning is not just about Plan-making but about development according to Plan. I am uncompromising about this premise and, by extension, resigned to being considered oddball Planner.

I am writing only to raise a professional issue that I am in a position to raise. I wish to clarify that I seek no favour, nor do I presume to suggest and also that I do not recognise any ‘superior’ status of anyone, as the profession does not have any mechanism to regulate or judge professional quality and integrity. This is just a matter-of-fact Planner-to-Planners letter about state-of-affairs.

Last week DDA Commissioner Planning was charged with subversion of the Plan. The office of the Commissioner Planning in DDA is, in my opinion, the office of greatest Planner responsibility in the country and this development in my opinion is very serious. It is bad enough that our profession is viewed as being largely worthless and is up for grabs by any politician, NGO, architect or any one else wannabe Planner. It is unacceptable that it should be seen as being corrupt.

That it will be so tainted is inevitable because what CBI has confirmed is the tip of the iceberg that I have been pointing to on the basis of three years of tracking and engaging on the ongoing Delhi Master Plan revision from the outside. I allege with confidence a land scam by deliberate denial of entitlements to the tune of 5000 hectares and estimate comparable entitlements’ infringing violations, all pre-requiring subversion of the Plan at a scale not possible without what CBI has shown.

I do not intend to inflict details of this, not because I have been dismissed time and again for ‘over-reacting’ about matters that unfolded precisely as I had worried they would, but because the time for discourse has passed. The draft Plan is soon to be placed before the public, a draft Plan prepared in the charge of a Planner now charged with subversion of the Plan, in contravention of due process of Plan revision to downsize entitlements and jeopardise the future of the city.

As implications of this Plan become clear in coming years, it is Planners who will be blamed, perhaps rightly so since all of us are professional custodians of the Plan and citizens’ entitlements enshrined in it. I am curious about what, if anything, the profession will do about this, but am not writing about that.

The professional issue that I wish to raise is that of trans-generational professional responsibility on a ravaged professional terrain. That is the one bridge with the mainstream that I cannot find it in me to burn. I think it in order for all older planners to appraise young planners about implications of this, also in view of global trends, so they can make up their minds about staying or quitting, in time to make place for themselves in worlds other than the plannerly.

I hear my alma mater is to hold its annual convocation on 04 April 2003. At the annual convocation of 1987 I had proudly picked up my Planner degree and gold medal and come home and put away my architect’s degree and gold medal for good. I remain and will always remain a proud Planner. But I can not but help feel shaken when I think that, too, was when Delhi Master Plan was being revised and part of my pride had to do with the appreciation by then Commissioner Planning of my thesis on Mixed Land use. This year’s convocation is a week after DDA cleared a proposal for modification of the Mixed Land use regulations then incorporated in the Plan, by brazenly subverting the Public Notice process and while three related matters are sub-judice, a day after the CBI raids.

In 16 short years pride has come to demand much for its preservation and I think it only fair that the young should know that and be prepared for what it will take to be able to be proud Planner.

Yours sincerely
Gita Dewan Verma / Planner