GNCTD forwardings of letters of 21&22/11/2004 Delhi Master Plan subversion: insights into “bhagidaari”

Letter to chief secretary, 16/01/2005,
GNCTD joint-forwading No.F.13(84)/2003/UD/MCD/15605 dated 11.01.05

Mr S Reghunathan, IAS, Chief Secretary, GNCTD

Ref: GNCTD joint-forwading No.F.13(84)/2003/UD/MCD/15605 dated 11.01.05

Dear Mr Reghunathan,

I am in receipt of letter under reference from Under Secretary (UD) on the subject of misuse of farmhouses, forwarding to DDA V-C and MCD Commissioner our letter of 22.11.2004 (for appropriate action, ATR/Comment in light of submission of representationist directly to her, etc) enclosing our letters of 22.11.2004 and 21.11.2004 (to Secretary MoUD, with copies to other respondents, viz, DDA, GNCTD, MCD, MoCA, DMRC, CGWA in our WP 8523/2003 against illegal projects in ridge area / green belt jeopardizing DMP entitlements of existing communities), dated 11.01.2005, ie, a day after approval of a draft DMP-2021. This suggests to me a dis-connect and this quick collage of a few pieces connected to the forwarding under reference is intended only to offer a different perspective that you might wish to view.

Farmhouse misuse

Our letter of 22.11.2004 was not about farmhouses. Our letter of 21.11.2004 was on subject of our WP 8523/2003, with reference to news reports of notice in NGO PIL against misuse of farmhouses. Our submission was that points raised in letter of 17.02.2004 (included in the forwarding) about farmhouse party policy be addressed in that PIL and in replies to ours (filed in 2003) and replies that the court ordered on 22.09.2004 be expedited. Replies are still awaited and ATR on farmhouses was communicated as press report of 06.01.2005 of recommendations of “recognition of commercial exploitation of these spaces which would allow the government to charge higher property taxes” and of viewing them “as potential land reserves for provision of social facilities and high-density residential development including provision for economically weaker sections” having been incorporated in draft DMP-2021.

You might recall that on 01.11.2003 MCD Commissioner had issued directions to zonal deputies to check commercial misuse of farmhouses. On 18.11.2003 your predecessor had issued an order asking officials to “avoid attending functions at farmhouses”. These initiatives skirted DDA, in whom vest powers against misuse. Farmhouse parties continued and, predictably, obfuscating court case (from farmhouses sealed by MCD), political “protest” in MCD, reluctant “practical solution” from CM, etc, followed. On 07.02.04 it was reported that, “subsequent to recommendations made by the principal secretary (urban development) commissioner DDA (planning), commissioner of police and joint commissioner of police (traffic)”, CM in consultation with LG had approved the decision to hold back for a year action against commercial misuse of farmhouses. On 15.02.2004 it was reported MCD had permitted it for daily "misuse charge" of Rs. 40,000, etc. On 17.02.2004 it was reported MCD had “formally informed the High Court” of this policy and Commissioner would make “a statement to this effect before the standing committee”. (Court also asked GNCTD and MCD how government bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi being “frequently let out, licensed or used for marriage purposes”, even as Bungalow area is under NDMC and Central Government).

This was a DMP modification and I wrote to Secretary MoUD “to place on record my objection (under my rights u/s.11A of DD Act, 1957)” to a policy with no public interest benefit, proposed restrictions that fail to fully address nuisance and infringement of DMP entitlements, and “misuse fee” mechanism that is devoid of basis in law, etc. I wonder why our letter of 21.11.2004 (to Secretary MoUD, only to ask these objections be addressed in PIL) has been forwarded by GNCTD to MCD and DDA (to whom it was identically copied) since the policy originated from neither Mr Rakesh Mehta (not mentioned in report of 07.02.2004 among those who suggested it) nor Mr Madhukar Gupta (who took over as DDA VC afterwards) and the buck stops at CM’s door since the decision was hers, as was the proviso to allow the relaxation only for a year, just passed.

Allowing illegal parties till party-facilities are developed

News reports about the policy had said misuse was to be “permitted for a year’s time till alternative arrangements are created”, with references to baraat-ghars and community halls. Better “alternatives” might have been neighbourhood clubs, but sites reserved in layout plans as “other community facilities” (OCF) for such options have been lost, by GNCTD favour of “essentiality certificates”, to institutions with no role at community level (1 lakh population) and options in nodal commercial sites (ie, community center sites, eg, Vasant Lok, PVR Complex, etc) were not explored at time of, say, making GNCTD’s late-hours shopping policy. In Vasant Kunj, for instance, on OCF sites we have Jaganath Institute of Management Studies, Common Cause, etc. One part of our yet to be developed community center site seems to have lately been “sold” to a builder and the other is “encroached” by our police station, etc. Legal “alternatives” to farmhouse-party-places were not being found in the last year even for Vasant Kunj, located next to large concentration of this nuisance, and now the relaxation for violation is “recommended” to be “upgraded” to relaxation of law.

Meanwhile, work on illegal government projects amidst illegal farmhouse-party-places also picked up, despite our WP 8523/2003 – GNCTD super-specialty liver institute south of Vasant Kunj sector D-2, GNCTD Mandi at Andheria Morh, Sultangarhi mega-housing near Rangpuri, etc. Future use for facilities and high density housing is, therefore, not “recommendation” but fait-accompli. However, the mega-housing does not include housing for economical weaker sections and the facilities are not “social”. GNCTD super-specialty, for instance, is regional facility better located elsewhere in NCR and certainly not justifiable in residential area on a plot that does not even meet accessibility, waste, etc, requirements for it. Both DDA’s allotment and GNCTD’s decision to upgrade to super-specialty from general hospital have no techno-legal justification and claim basis in “bhagidaari” demand – now in pursuit of world-classiness, but originally for cheap hospital since planned sites were lost to GNCTD “essentiality certificates” to those whose ilk is currently shedding pretensions of charity and nobility, now that “practical solution” of “misuse fee” is on offer also to it.

Community facilities – court orders in our PIL on schools

CM’s farmhouse party policy has been replicated in policy to allow health-facility enterprises to become super-specialty after contributing misuse-fee to medical insurance for BPL card-holders. I am as unable to reconcile the fact of recurrently lapsing budgets for facilities with the shrill claim of shortage-of-funds as I am unable to locate in abysmal failure of even PDS any basis for confidence in targeted interventions. A huge component of city population, in any case, is neither BPL-card-holder nor farmhouse party-goer / super-specialty medical tourist and facilities for it need space. Space cannot be created out of “misuse-fees” (which is why the law contemplates only license fee for legal use and misuse penalty for illegal use and requires proceeds from both to be used, not for safety-net insurance or MCD book-balancing, but only for development according to DMP, which budgets space in a holistic manner). Nor can space (allocated without “shortage” in DMP) survive GNCTD’s unfettered distribution of “essentiality certificates” and “upgradation permissions” to mis-users on no basis other than its own sweet “bhagidaari” will about needs, demand and supply.

In our WP 8954-59/2003 we have succeeded in proving all school sites in Vasant Kunj are being misused to rob all (not just poor) local children of DMP entitlements to equal access neighbourhood schooling – by GNCTD’s illegal “essentiality certificates” and “upgradation permissions”. By our engagements on this since 2000 we have also succeeded in demonstrating GNCTD’s propensity to negotiate the law in favour of culprit “bhagidaars” rather than enforce it for victims of this “bhagidaari”. Even after disposal (with directions for stopping violations in 12 weeks) of our PIL on 27.10.2004, compliance has not started, while all-out effort is underway, in some appeal matter on admission by lottery, to rewrite (downsize) statutory provisions for neighbourhood schools. This appeal case is becoming as publicized as the free-seats and free-beds cases and the direction of the drift of that clutch of PIL should be obvious to all (it was obvious to us when our PIL were filed in December 2003, precisely in apprehension of the simplistic free-seats order that came in January 2004).

Misuse now, use for facilities and poor later

Justifying misuse of farmhouses “as potential land reserves for provision of social facilities and high-density residential development including provision for economically weaker sections” smacks of desperation. Social facilities and housing for the poor are not only DMP priorities but the purpose of the land policy by which land in Delhi has been acquired for half-century for facilitating, including financing, development as per DMP They represent implementation backlog meriting priority, not place in some queue waiting for leftovers from some illegal party. Moreover, in DMP Green Belt in south and south-west, where many farmhouses are, dense development is precluded by hydro-geo-morphological constraints whose disregard has made the ground water regime critical (with also seismic implications) leading to ban on boring (which makes withdrawal for new construction as well as commercial party-places illegal under environment, besides development, law). And farms (with their farmhouses) are a DMP use because the city needs vegetables, milk, etc.

The “recommendation” of milking farmhouse misuse after MCD Commissioner donated the city’s cows in Mt Abu and auctioned its buffaloes in neighbouring states seems desperate. It seems more desperate in name of “social facilities” with GNCTD super-specialty under construction in the middle of farmhouse-party-places regardless of court’s notice in our WP 8523/2003 and while no steps have been taken for compliance in our WP 8954-59/2003 for stopping violations getting in the way of equal access schooling. It seems most desperate in name of housing for the poor after the scam of diverting by “policy” 3000 Ha of land set aside in DMP for EWS housing (which is what most accurately describes our “slum problem”) has been caught in Planning Commission Report of 2002 (on committee for which all tiers of government were represented) and by High Court order of November 2002 that quashed the illegal policy (government’s SLP against which disregards its call for legal alternative) and while in our WP 5007&5009/2002 (that had already challenged the illegal policy and sought legal policy to implement the statutory solution) after brazenly conceding that mandatory EWS housing has not been developed no action has been taken against misuse of sites meant for it, including by still-thriving party-place Sahara Restaurant of the DDA scam fame.

Baraat-ghars and community halls that CM’s decision in 2004 mentioned as “alternative” to farmhouse-party-places were already main “bhagidaari” gifts for urban villages, etc, and in 2003, at “consultation” on night shelter arranged in MCD-ActionAid “bhagidaari” of which CM is patron, were also offered by her to NGOs for their non-community use. An example of such facility is the illegal MCD-ActionAid Night Shelter that MCD Commissioner inaugurated on 13.12.2004 (midway between MCD’s mid-winter evictions on 28.11.2004 and 28.12.2004) in MCD school in Pushta that ran out of tents but was upgraded, while Pushta was being cleared, to porta-cabins. Both MCD and night shelter NGO were providing facilities in Pushta and facilitated also its clearance and community / social role of their present facility is conspicuous by its absence especially since demolition on 29.12.2004 of religious structures near it – not only did those rendered shelterless (and night-shelterless) not perceive the MCD-NGO Night Shelter as option, its managers did not even appraise CM of ground reality as she continued to be misled by the impression that a single mosque had been demolished.

In my letter of 17.02.2004 to Secretary MoUD included in the forwarding under reference, I had pointed out how impacts of farmhouse party places were worse than of Pushta slums and said, “The contrast between, on one hand, DDA/MCD enthusiasm to develop/find party-places to make ado about their so-called shortage so farmhouse parties can appear need-based and, on the other, their utter indifference, assurances to court notwithstanding, to ensure for children unsettled from Yamuna Pushta any support to tide them over exams makes me hang my head in shame”. I had also mentioned Pushta children and farmhouse-party-policy in another letter of 17.02.2004 to respondents in our PIL on schools that, along with its forwarding on 01.04.2004, is part of our rejoinder. When NDA was in power CM had seen lack of facilities in Pushta resettlement sites. When UPA came to power she saw in Bawana shortage only of crematoria. In July deaths in Bawana, including of children, were reported. Our letter about that was forwarded by President, NAC chairperson and CVC. The combined ATR on farmhouse misuse and facilities and housing requires also the recommendation that the misuse-fee collections be credited to a dedicated crematoria fund.

Sultangarhi project (DMP subversion scam in contempt of court)

Our letter of 22.11.2004 that has been joint-forwarded is about Sultangarhi project, started in DMP Green Belt / ridge without mandatory land use change or CGWA concurrence and not only stopped but also ordered inquired into (to prevent identical illegalities) by High Court judgment of 16.09.2002. That PIL was based on engagements since 2000 by local citizens’s groups in holistic pursuit of lawful development, that “bhagidaar” RWAs endorsed on ground of water shortage. My doubts about subversive nature of “bhagidaari” became hypothesis with the odd reply to my letter of 22.11.2001 to CM to suggest “bhagidaari” be synchronized with DMP implementation in area-wise approach involving all classes, and the hypothesis was confirmed after Sultangarhi Public Notice (by which over 1700 families filed objections). Authorities’ indifference to this lawful process for participation in development belied “participation” claims of “bhagidaari” and claims of “representation” ended when GNCTD member on DDA sought inquiry – not comprehensive inquiry in compliance of court that citizens were urging, but vigilance inquiry into the tendering that some contractors wanted.

The inquiry that court had ordered was not conducted and identical illegalities continued to be perpetuated. Sporadic work at Sultangarhi also continued, including on a much publicized wall (that must have used a flexi-tape to measure controlled distance from the monument since it zig-zags quite close to it to spare the farmhouses), while 14th century Mahipalpur bundh broke. In December 2003 we filed, from Mahipalpur, our WP 8523/2003, in which Sultangarhi judgment is part of the pleadings. Respondents’ adversarial stance and their “bhagidaars” support or weak protest (including through judicial routes) and notice on 22.09.2004 leading not to replies but to up-scaling of work, private illegalities, announcing of further projects, etc, were all Sultangarhi ATRs, as were MCD and GNCTD initiatives in December to empower themselves and their “bhagidaars” for heritage interventions after work at Sultangarhi commenced (cf, letters such as of 22.11.2004). We were expecting “bhagidaari” demand of Sultangarhi project, ATR on which also has already been reported. On 04.01.2005 a news report said draft DMP-2021 had “for the first time identified six heritage zones" and named the five already identified in DMP and Sultangarhi. On 05.01.2005 news reports said, by the Heritage Bill just passed (in conflict with DD Act regimes) RWAs would get 1 lakh a year for maintaining monuments and one AK Mehta, chairman of Federation of Vasant Kunj RWAs, reversing the stand taken by the Federation in response to Public Notice u/s.11A, demanded the Sultangarhi project. On 08.01.2005 news reports said Supreme Court (in PIL that empowered MCD to make heritage byelaws) had empowered 14 heritage experts on MoUD recommendation. One of these, AGK Menon, was the one quoted in the report of 04.01.2005. Mehta lives in D-I Vasant Kunj and Menon is Director of TVB School of Habitat Studies, owned by a builder trust, affiliated to GNCTD’s university since after being put on notice by Council of Architecture, also for being on illegal site – amidst farmhouses behind D-2, quite close to GNCTD super-speciality.

We need no ATRs on Sultangarhi, we wrote the original one with which High Court, by landmark judgment of 16.09.2002 caught, nine months before CBI, the DMP subversion scam and ordered the inquiry that could have prevented it. This one case on its own is enough to prove the role of “bhagidaari” in DMP subversion. The cover-up that “officially” began on 28.07.2003 with tabling in Parliament of some DMP-2021 “guidelines” and tabling in Assembly of an admittedly defective (in conflict with DD Act) Cooperative Bill is now ending with approval of (by all media accounts) those “guidelines” as draft DMP-2021, on heels of tabling of the (still defective) Cooperative Act Amendment Bill. Throughout this period, on one hand DDA / MoUD have failed to honour all constitutional processes that guarantee accountability and, on the other, GNCTD / MCD in neglect of obligatory functions have been eroding the DMP-DDA regime through extra-constitutional interferences, both helped along by “bhagidaars” extra-constitutionally empowered mainly to obfuscate.

All this is just to offer a different perspective – if you like, in return of your kindness when I had called you on 12.07.2000 about an unlawful demolition for the Sultangarhi project.

Warm regards and Republic Day Greetings


Gita Dewan Verma, Planner