Letter, Public Notice; Hearing (24/04/2003)
Mr S R Kataria
Land Acquisition Collector (NW)
Office of Deputy Commissioner (NW), Village Kanjhawala, Delhi – 110081
Sub: My objections (1) dated 23.03.03 to No. F 11(24)/ 98/ LBD/ LA/ 19349 of 4/3/2003 for land acquisition for slum resettlement in Bhalswa Jahangirpuri and (2) dated 08.05.03 to N.F.11(81)/2000/L&B/LA/1317 dated 30/4/2003 for same in Savda and Ghevra
Dear Mr Kataria,
I was directed vide a notice signed by you delivered by messenger to me late in the evening of 20.05.2003 to appear before you in your chamber at 10:30 AM on 22.05.2003 for hearing of my objection under reference at (1) above. Your notice had no phone number and on the copy I signed receipt on I requested you to kndly call me and let me know if a more convenient time and place were possible. Since I did not hear from you I cancelled a prior appointment and arrived from Vasant Kunj to Kanjhawala at 10:15 AM, so as not to inconvenience you. You, however, arrived only at 11:15 AM. You were kind enough to hold my ‘hearing’ before other matters, but you had not gone through my objection and were unaware of the fact that I had not objected as an aggrieved land owner but as a professional planner in public interest to point out that the notification appeared in contempt of court or at least tantamount to frustrating process of law and contrary to policy positions and was certainly in contravention of the Master Plan and land policy. Instead of discussing or clarifying my concerns, you asked me to practically read out my objection and then to sign your notes of the same as my statement and I asked you to consider my letter instead. I also asked you to clarify how the public notice / my hearing were serious in view of subsequent s.6 notification for similar acquisition under reference at (2), to which you said that was a different matter and I would be called for hearing separately for it.
This is to firstly state that I will not appear for any such hearing as I see no point in traveling 100 km back and forth at my time and cost to read out my letter raising in purely public interest a serious question about validity of your notifications. I fail to understand how any procedure that inconveniences citizens, with almost threatening statements like “In case you fail to appear on the aforesaid date the decision will be taken exparte”, only to spare public officials the bother of reading one-page letters can be considered in the spitit of laws guaranteeing citizens the right to participate in development decisions.
Secondly, this is to request, again, clarification simply of the following:
- (a) how land acquisition for resettlement, such as through notifications under reference can be considered valid / legal in view of the points I have raised in my objections, notably (i) the issue of legality of resettlement being sub-judice in both High Court and Supreme Court, (ii) all tiers of government having taken public positions against current style resettlement, and (iii) such resettlement being, in any case, contrary to the Master Plan and land policy and tantamount to misuse of public land
- (b) which agency has sought the land acquisition for which the notifications under reference, and any other such notifications that I might have missed, have been issued
I am afraid I fail to understand why my simple queries have not already been answered, or how the procedures being followed under right to information Act or bhagidari dialogues or even the sort of hearing to which I was called are providing any genuine accountability or transparency, let alone opportunity for any real participation.
Thirdly, for the record, I wish to state that I find your remark that it did not matter that I am a professional planner very unfortunate. Like you I have been educated at public cost and have a professional responsibility in public interest. It is a great pity that on planning issues decisions are taken without competent planners, who are then not even allowed to participate through processes like Public Notice. It is my firm conviction that governance systems that marginalise expertise are regressive and contrary to public interest.
I hope you will be kind enough to provide the clarifications sought above. I am enclosing my objections under reference for your convenience.
Gita Dewan Verma / Planner
Dr A K Walia,
Minister for Urban Development, GoNCTD
Delhi Government Secretariat, IP Estate, New Delhi – 110002
Sub: Request for clarification of Delhi government’s housing priorities and stand re slums / housing for the poor
I am writing to you in view of the following recent developments / announcements.
(1) On 23.05.03 Express Newsline reported you have written to Union Urban Development Minister for land, with choice, for housing Delhi Government officials and Ministers. This seems consistent with:
- (a) Government’s expenditure priorities (last year best’performance’ was achieved on this budget head)
- (b) DDA scheme for allotting DDA flats to government employees on freehold basis
- (c) Your concurrence with conversion of leasehold to freehold (which you have criticized only for its timing).
(2) On 25.03.03 an Assembly resolution was passed against slum demolitions, but government seems to have no serious plans for slums/low-income housing, as evident from the following:
- (a) In May 2000, laying the foundation stone of Rajiv Gandhi Flyover, Congress President had called for an effective slum policy. Since then, government has achieved much on flyovers and nothing on slums.
- (b) After four years of its rule government had only ‘regret’ to offer to slum dwellers, while it had ‘achieved’ much on bhagidari, which seems to have bestowed upon RWAs ‘encroachment removal’ powers.
- (c) This year’s budget also seems to refer only to 3000-odd workers’ units being built by DSIDC in Bawana where workers need not housing but industries, which government plans to regularize rather than shift.
- (d) The Assembly resolution has failed to provide even protection against demolitions, not only because government appears not to have issued any directions but also due to conflicting whims of bhagidaars.
- (e) The Assembly resolution, in any case, cannot possibly provide a ‘solution’ as it fails to resolve the issue of illegal resettlement having become a substitute for settlement according to Master Plan entitlements.
- (f) Government has not responded to requests – about Vasant Kunj slums and about court orders for Yamuna encroachments – to view the slum problem in relation to its statutory Master Plan solution.
- (g) Instead, government is, despite the November order of the High Court, going ahead with resettlement interventions, including land acquisition for illegal resettlement
- (h) And amidst its exclusionary bhagidari discourse dominated by RWAs seeking ‘encroachment removal’ and NGOs pursuing ‘night shelters’ in the name of housing rights, government has also reduced legal opportunity to object to illegal moves through Public Notice to a farce. (see enclosure)
I am afraid I fail to see any basis in government’s housing priorities and initiatives. The slum problem in Delhi is nothing but implementation backlog on statutory Master Plan targets for reasonable standard low-income housing in all residential development, adding up to 2000 hectares dispersed all over the city – sufficient as well as necessary for solving the slum problem. Sub-standard ‘alternatives’ for the poor and use of land meant for them for others will make the slum problem intractable, shortchanging slum dwellers on housing rights and others on right to a squalor-free city. As planner consultant to citizens’ groups in and out of slums aggrieved by such short-changing I seek the following clarifications:
- Why is government not exercising its powers under DD Act and Master Plan to ensure development according to Plan and instead pursuing inferior alternatives in disregard of citizens’ Plan entitlements?
- What is the basis for priority use of land within the city for officers / ministers while acquiring land for re-settling the poor in city fringes, in denial of their entitlements inclusive of priority as implementation backlog?
- What is the basis for government’s concurrence with the scheme for freehold tenure even as it will effectively condone hijacking, through GPA, of low-income housing stock by realtors and up-market users?
- Why has government not supported, despite numerous appeals, citizens’ initiatives in Vasant Kunj to solve the slum problem, as well as other problems, within the ambit of the Master Plan? In particular:
- why was Rajiv Gandhi Camp, demolished without notice on 24.03.03, not allowed to rebuild (like Rahul Gandhi Camp, Vasant Vihar), which may have prevented demolition of Arjun Camp on 19.05.03?
- on what basis did government tell NHRC in the matter of demolition-without-notice of Rangpuri Pahari on 05.07.2000 that there is no practice to give notice before demolition?
- Why has government not provided clarification, even at ‘hearing’ of objection in response to Public Notice, about legality/validity of land acquisition for resettlement (see encl.) and how are professionals and citizens excluded from bhagidari to place their views in the discourse?
I am not NGO, nor are my client-groups bhagidaars, but I hope, nevertheless, that you will be kind enough to respond to this request for clarifications, including those sought in the enclosed letter. Thanking you,
Gita Dewan Verma / Planner