In the matter of industrial land in Delhi, a newspaper reported today that
Mr Khurana has set up a committee to suggest amendments in the Master
Plan. The Committeee, headed by retired bureaucrat and comprising of
politicians is being set up even as the Master Plan is being officially
revised with inputs from expert groups by DDA, which is statutorily
mandated to undertake the Master Plan revision. The news report says that
Mr Khurana, "dismissing the work of professional planners, said: "They are
government officers working in airconditioned rooms and their work is not
the same as that of ours.?? His committee, which will follow Delhi BJP?s
views on the Master Plan, does not have a single town planner." The
following letter has been faxed to the President of India in view of these
remarks and the broader context of the recent and continuing announcements
about Master Plan changes outside the ambit of the statutory process of
Master Plan revision.


Respected Sir,
I am constrained to write this long letter to you as I feel deeply
aggrieved, both as a professional planner as well as a citizen of Delhi,
by remarks made by a Member of Parliament about the statutory Master Plan
for Delhi approved by Parliament. I am writing this ?anonymously?, though
I am including an address, only because I am sure I speak not just for
myself but also for other planners. As a professional fraternity most, if
not all, of us believe that a Master Plan is the best we have to match
needs and resources in ways that safeguard equity and carrying capacity.
It is from this perspective that I beg to draw attention to some
misleading and obfuscating aspects of recent and ongoing political
statements and the grave implications for the city of land use planning
(rather, ?regularisation?) ideas being thrown up from positions of
political power, not planning expertise.

&#61623; First of all I would like to say that the suggestion that
?regularisation? is more ?pro-poor? than the Master Plan is erroneous. I
mention here just three instances:
(1) Small industries. The Master Plan has adequate provisions for
industrial space in the city ? in industrial estates and flatted factories
and also, subject to restrictions, in commercial and residential areas.
The problem of industries in places not meant for them is the result of
the failure to develop industrial space as per statutory entitlements of
citizens under the Plan. Following Court orders in 1995, government began
to engage on this problem in a manner that obfuscated planning failures
and implementation failures to a point of condoning, even rewarding,
culprits while punishing victims. In 2000 former Chief Minister and
present MP called for a Master Plan Badlo Andolan, demanding that
industrial units be ?regularised? in their appalling conditions. Had he
called, instead, for a Master Plan Lagu Karo Andolan the problem may well
have been resolved by now, without short-changing industry owners and
workers on their entitlements by throwing them out of the city on the
pretext of there being no industrial land in it. The current move to
regularise on industrial plots rightfully meant for their use
non-industrial uses by others is nothing short of legitimising this
(2) Slums. The government has come out with a slum policy that advocates
upgrading, while allowing resettlement. In effect government has de-linked
slum interventions from housing, proposing for the majority in the city a
choice between upgraded unsettled conditions and sub-standard
resettlement, but not settlement. The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi lately
even announced Delhi Development Authority would not build Janta housing
any more and at least some of its low-income housing is being disposed of
as high-income flats. All this amounts to short-changing on statutory
entitlements as the Master Plan requires 25% of all residential
development, across the city, to be by way of cheap plots of at least 25
sqm, etc. DDA vice-chairman was lately quoted saying he did not recognise
minimum standards and followed, instead, a ?government order? that permits
12.5 sqm plots. Letters to the Ministry asking about the basis of its
?order? have yet to be answered, but it has ?saved? ? or shall one say
?stolen? ? from the kitty of Delhi?s estimated 6 lakh slum families net
plotted area of 75,00,000 sqm for unplanned uses that can be ?regularised?
(3) Hawkers. The Master Plan has provisions for space for hawkers in
markets, work places, residential areas, etc, to create planned hawking
spaces in line with the natural propensity of hawkers and at the same time
not a problem for others. Non-implementation of these provisions,
statutory since 1990, has resulted in Rs.3300 crores in extortion payments
by hawkers, while ?sparing? (?stealing?) from their entitlements real
estate worth somewhat more. Again, instead of implementing citizens?
statutory entitlements, government has come out with not one but two
?original? policies. In August Prime Minister?s Office announced a policy.
Now the Ministry?s policy initiative has also come or is reaching
fruition. Both ?policies? had little to do with each other although they
came from the same government at the same time. They also have nearly
nothing to do with the Plan and amount to short-changing Delhi?s 5 lakh
hawkers, as does regularisation of unintended development on space meant
for hawkers.
I could go on, but this is only to illustrate how the undermining of the
statutory Master Plan or the ?planning-for-the-past? style regularisation
being posited as an alternative to its implementation, cannot possibly
have a ?pro-poor? justification.

&#61623; Secondly, I would like to point out that regularisation can do
little more than protect private (illegal) investments on individual
properties. When land meant for the poor but put to up-market uses is
regularised, the fact of designed infrastructure capacities having been
stressed remains unchanged. The same happens when additional floors or
excessive basements are generously condoned, with or without penalty, or
when unauthorised colonies are mindlessly ?regularised?. I would also like
to mention here that, contrary to the impression being repeatedly
conveyed, the Master Plan has explicit provisions for mixed land use. It
permits industries in residential and commercial areas, shops and
businesses in residential areas, informal trade in various land use zones.
These provisions are designed for systematic integration (as opposed to
haphazard mixing) and, hence, there are restrictions on scale and type.
Blanket regularisation only protects interests of those who have willfully
violated laws, without addressing neighbourhood nuisance due to mixed land
use. All this can hardly be considered ?pro-people?.

&#61623; Thirdly, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the
process by which the Master Plan has to be substantively revised is
clearly prescribed and this process is currently underway. The
government?s statutory mandate of development according to Plan calls for
land use decisions to be justified in terms of how they further Plan goals
rather than of any ?independent? view of ?need? or ?demand? or
?desirability? or, merely, ?feasibility? under the law. Thus, the point is
not of validity or otherwise of anyone?s hypotheses of hawkers? ?need? for
loans not land or ?demand? for shops in housing areas or ?desirability? of
doing away with janata housing or ?feasibility? under the Act of condoning
commercial use of industrial plots. The point is whether such proposals
represent an improvement over statutory Plan provisions (for,
respectively, informal sector, mixed landuse, class composition of
housing, industrial space) that they wish to modify. The point is also if
these decisions are taken through processes, such as monitoring and
surveys, statutorily required to form their basis. Remarks about the
statutory Master Plan outside the ambit of these purposes and processes
are irresponsible, to say the least.

&#61623; Fourthly, I?d like to mention that Delhi has had a policy for
socialisation of land through public acquisition to facilitate plan
implementation and safeguard the interests of the poor. It was (only) with
this express mandate that public land was placed in custody (not
ownership) of DDA for development according to Plan, which is inclusive of
action against violations of Plan. Condonation of violation of the Plan on
land cheaply acquired under a policy meant only to facilitate its
implementation is clearly a departure from mandate. In this context the
emphasis on conversion from leasehold to freehold ? along with the
inaccurate suggestion that this will allow flexibility in land use ? seems
to have nothing to do with planned development. In general, the government
seems to be taking far greater interest in ?liberalising? land ownership
than in regulating land use, even as the Master Plan and its enabling Act
are entirely focussed on land use regulation. Indeed, from a planned
development perspective, it hardly matters who owns the land as long as it
is used optimally and equitably. It is noteworthy that even as land use
decisions have yet to establish (a) if carrying capacity constraints
permit additional land assembly, and (b) for who and what additional land
is needed, much is being said ?officially? about the manner of land
assembly (with private partnerships, etc). One does, I regret to say, get
the impression that government is more interested in the city?s land than
about its citizens.

&#61623; Lastly, I would like to say that while it is possible that many
planners work in ivory towers or lack professional commitment, this can
not ? should not ? be allowed to become an excuse for politicians to take
over the task of planning our city. In any case, ensuring professional
quality, especially in public authorities, is also government?s job. For
politicians to suggest that they are constrained to take over planning
because planners are no good is justifiable only after the government
closes planning departments in School of Planning, Delhi Development
Authority, National Capital Region Planning Board, Municipal Corporation
of Delhi, etc. There is, after all, no reason for tax payers? money to be
spent on educating and paying planners if they are not to be allowed to
discharge the social responsibility for which these public investments are

As a citizen, I could also comment on the timing of politicians? planning
ideas in the context of matters that they refer to being subjudice and
linked to topical land scams. As a planner, I am not concerned about
whether these are ill-intentioned or just ill-informed, because that makes
little difference to their implications for the city. What does make a
difference is that, being coincident with the on-going Master Plan review,
the myopic ?Vision 2003? not looking beyond one assembly election carries
the real danger of inferior alternatives substituting robust provisions as
the statutory basis for Delhi?s development for the next twenty years.

I beg your indulgence for this long letter, which I am writing only
because the utter indifference of public representatives, public servants
and even professional trustees leaves me clueless about what needs doing
to undo the marginalisation of the planning profession and restore faith
in planned development and Master Plan. I do know, however, that something
needs doing and doing urgently if problems of Delhi are not to become
intractable. I am writing in the hope that you will somehow save our city
from this perilous ?land politics? of development.

Yours sincerely

A Planner