on behalf of Gita Dewan Verma
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Mumbai Model for Delhi Slums / CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER Gita Dewan Verma /
Planner / 04.02.03

On 03 February 2003, while announcing a regularisation decision in respect
of industries, Union Urban Development Minister Ananth Kumar again
emphasized 'in-situ development'. And again I smell the Mumbai Model for
Delhi?s slums.

No one has moved court against the November judgement striking down the
slum policy, nor responded to requests to prevail upon DDA to file reply
in the Arjun Camp matter. Everyone is talking only of night shelters and
crowded flats for the poor.

The idea of the Mumbai Model crystallized, I think, at the end October
meeting between VP Singh and Ananth Kumar (reported in the Hindu on
26.10.02 MCD had already proposed ?models? for high density puny flats,
sub-standard in terms of Master Plan norms for minimum dwelling size and
maximum density and later Sheila Dikshit had said this madness was a Delhi
Government original idea

On 10.11.02 HT had a full-page feature, complete with the Minister?s
interview, Residents of Narela had written then to say, "We find it
extremely unfortunate that the government did not offer us the choice of
free flats in our old locations while shifting us to Narela in 2000... we
would like to request a scheme for free flats in original locations for
those interested in returning from Narela." And residents of Rangpuri
Pahari had written to ask that the Model be adjusted for conformity with
Master Plan norms for dwelling sizes and densities, recommendation of
plotted rather than flatted development, etc. Apropos land policy
possibilities of cross-subsidy benefits at area rather than site level,
they said, " there seems no basis for existing slum sites... meant for
other uses as per Plan, to be used partly for 'fitting' residents into
small units and partly for unplanned development to make the 'project'
viable for builders. Not only does the statutory Master Plan for Delhi
entitle us to greater benefits in planned development, our existing
circumstances seem also to offer us more than the Mumbai scheme in its
original form. We would like to be assured that our existing circumstances
are improved not downgraded and that our statutory entitlements form the
yardstick for assessing any scheme for us."

On 16.11.02 NDTV aired a report 'Maharashtra Slum rehabilitation scheme
falls flat' whereupon I had

written to MoUD and DDA to explain at length my reservations about the
inadequacy and illegality of application of the Mumbai Model in the
context of Delhi?s Master Plan and land policy. Most of that letter is at
the end of this.

The November judgement striking down the slum policy, I had thought, put
paid to plans for Mumbai Modelling in Delhi, but on 10.12.02 DDA brought
out a Press Notice suggesting it was going right ahead with the idea. I
had written then to MoUD and DDA: "The Press Notice... invites NGOs 'of
repute' for construction of one room tenements of 18 to 20 sqm for slum
dwellers. Eligibility criteria include annual financial turnover of 1
crore in last 5 years and 'work experience' of at least one job of 1
crore. Please note: ...These 'eligibility criteria' are not in line with
the generally accepted role of NGOs and seem 'tailored' to 'qualify' a
particular non-Delhi NGO mentioned when Urban Development Minister
advocated the Mumbai Model for Delhi... The press notice also seems to be
in contempt of High Court's recent judgement striking down the
government's slum policy. The court, I understand, has left it to the
government to come out with an alternative policy to house low-income
groups and said that 'encroachment', however, cannot be the eligibility
criteria. The government cannot continue with slum housing without first
explicating a legal low-income housing policy in view of this judgement."

Now that Ananth Kumar has reiterated his commitment to in-situ development
? on TV on 03.02.03 and a little over a week before that in a newspaper
interview on 24.01.03 I am inclined to worry.

Expectedly, I have not received a response from MoUD / DDA, nor have I
been able to ascertain if and where the Mumbai Model is being 'piloted' in
Delhi. I?d be grateful for any information about this. The following is
much of the text from my letter of 17.11.02 objecting to the application
of the Mumbai Model in Delhi.

 

"... a durable solution to the slum problem needs standard 'housing'
interventions, not sub-standard 'slum' interventions. In this regard, I
would like to reiterate what I have repeatedly said in my letters to DDA
and MoUD, viz, there are sufficient statutory planning provisions to deal
with Delhi's low-income housing problem and slum interventions in
disregard of these are unnecessary, unaffordable and, in fact, illegal.

* The Master Plan for Delhi has explicit and adequate provisions for land
for low-income housing. Delhi Development Act does not contemplate land
ownership by DDA, only development according to Plan. An explicit purpose
of the policy through which land was vested in DDA for this responsibility
is low-income housing. The view that slums are not 'DDA's backlog'
meriting priority in further development, but 'encroachments on DDA's
land' deserving only patchy improvement or shoddy resettlement, is
untenable from this perspective.

* The Master Plan defines standard housing in terms of minimum sizes,
maximum densities and (integrated) locations.
Policies/schemes/(pilot)projects that violate these statutory provisions
and GOs/approvals that permit sub-standard housing, appear to be outright
illegal. Not only do they 'shortchange' citizens in slums on statutory
housing entitlements, they amount to misuse of public land and resources
for sustaining, rather than solving, the city's slum problem, which is
contrary to DDA's mandate and the purpose for which public land and
resources have been vested in it.

* With regard to the 'Mumbai Model', I would like to point out further
that Delhi's land policy makes it tantamount to 'double profiteering' on
public land. Under this policy, DDA was to create - at city/zonal/area
(and not site) level - benefits of cross-subsidy for the poor. While DDA
developed remunerative uses, it largely failed to develop uses to be
cross-subsidised by these. This, in effect, amounts to profiteering on
public land by DDA. To now give part of the land that was meant for
non-remunerative uses to builders for remunerative development to
cross-subsidise low-income housing amounts to profiteering on public land
by builders. This seems malafide.

 

The Vasant Kunj 'case' provides a snapshot of rare clarity in this matter.
Since 2000, residents in 'slums' in the area, which include 40-50 year old
settlements pre-dating the Plan and 10-15 year old ones pre-dating Vasant
Kunj, have been 'requesting' implementation of statutory entitlements for
low-income housing. Their contention is that, as per Plan norms, there is
an excess of up-market flats here and shortage only of cheap plots that
DDA ought to have developed on priority in its Vasant Kunj scheme under
Plan provisions for low-income housing and for integration of pre-existing
settlements into new development. Several flat residents, individually and
through some RWAs / their Federation, support this out of enlightened
self-interest. Their contention is low-income housing within Vasant Kunj
will ensure that those providing domestic services remain in the vicinity.
They also apprehend that, otherwise, land for low-income housing will be
used for up-market / infrastructure-stressing flats, which will exacerbate
the water shortage and also create a permanent slum problem as demand for
services will remain, as will the 'corruption' that abets slum formation.
These long-standing 'requests' for Plan implementation are, without a
shadow of doubt, sensible and squarely within the ambit of DDA's statutory
mandate and MoUD's responsibility in respect of Delhi's planned
development.

Unfortunately, and inexplicably, the Master Plan and citizens' requests
for its implementation continue to be disregarded by DDA in its
development and MoUD in its announcements, etc about the area. The news
report of 10.11.02 about MoUD's decision about slums refers to lack of
service providers' housing in Vasant Kunj. MoUD, however, has not
responded to requests for implementation of Plan provisions for service
providers' housing made, say, by residents of pre-Plan 'slum' settlements
in Rangpuri Pahari since 2000. It also did not stop DDA's illegal scheme
for HIG housing in excess of Plan norms in the green belt in Rangpuri
Pahari even though its attention was repeatedly drawn to the same in
June-July 2002. Nor did it intervene to stop the same, continuing in
contempt of court orders of 16.09.02, in response to numerous letters over
the last two months. And DDA continues to build up-market flats in excess
of Plan norms not only in the scheme that the court ordered stopped but
also elsewhere in J-zone/green belt and on park sites within Vasant Kunj.
It has also included LIG flats constructed in D6 as part of a 'pilot'
project in its lately disposed HIG housing scheme. At the same time, it
continues to threaten 'slum' demolitions, even as it has not provided
clarifications on housing entitlements, not only in response to requests,
etc, since 2000, but also pursuant to court orders of August 2002 in the
matter of Arjun Camp (a 'slum' on a park site within Vasant Kunj)

 

Montaging on this snapshot the likely impacts of Plan implementation and
of 'alternatives' makes a telling comparison. If Plan provisions for 5000
cheap plots in a community of 1 lakh are implemented:

- all slum residents in/around Vasant Kunj can be accommodated, as their
estimated population (as pointed out in earlier letters and the report and
note of July 2001) is less

- residents of Rangpuri Pahari - the oldest and largest concentration of
'slums' - could be housed in the area itself, now that DDA/MoUD have
proposed land use change to residential, and, as compensatory layout
readjustment, undeveloped identical sites in Vasant Kunj (eg, D4/D5) could
be reconverted to green belt in line with environmental / regional
dispersal goals of the Plan.

- residents of Arjun Camp, etc (the only other large concentration of
'slums') could readily be accommodated in the still available site for
nearly 1000 janta units on Aruna Asaf Ali Road just 2 kilometers away to
the convenience of all, restoring the site meant for park for flat
residents.

- as over half the planned commercial sites are yet to be developed,
cross-subsidy options at area-level can be exploited to provide free
flats, though it might be far better to minimise subsidy by providing
plots (as recommended in the Plan) as land is available and, in fact, not
suited for any other development on account of serious carrying capacity
and other constraints, etc

- overall planned land use/density configuration will be retained,
infrastructure loads will remain within designed capacity, housing
standards will not need compromising, and amenity/integration goals of
planned residential development will be achieved to the advantage of all.

If, instead, the 'alternative' of in-situ free flats on part-site and use
of rest by builders is implemented: [It is impossible to argue that
Rangpuri Pahari slums are 'untenable' as their land is 'needed' for other
housing. Arjun Camp, etc are 'untenable' for occupying a park, but, in
view of availability of housing sites, it is impossible to argue they
merit distant relocation. That leaves the in-situ flats' option for
comparative appraisal, assuming that patchy improvements year after year
are not 'housing'.]

- intense builder development in Rangpuri Pahari will open up the green
belt to sprawl, to the immense detriment of environmental and regional
dispersal concerns for Delhi

- builder development on sites occupied by Arjun Camp, etc will substitute
a park with high-density development that is not envisaged in the Vasant
Kunj scheme

- benefits may not accrue to slum dwellers, as seen in the case of Mumbai.
[In general, empirical evidence shows that 'integration' of different
classes of housing does not work at small scale, which is why the Plan
recommends it at 1 lakh population. DDA's latest 'composite housing'
schemes (such as ones stopped by court) for 400 to 500 flats inclusive of
some LIG ones, say, are unlikely to benefit LIG families, as happened in
case of its LIG 'pilot' project flats in D6, lately disposed off by DDA as
HIG scheme]

- land meant for low-income housing under the Plan will be 'spared' for
unintended development in excess of infrastructure / environmental
carrying capacity and to the disadvantage of all.

 

Please forgive the cynicism, but in every such comparative appraisal of
contemporary 'alternatives', I am able to notch up on the benefit side
only some paltry profits for some private parties and some brownie points
for some election. The costs, on the other hand, seem to be becoming
increasingly unaffordable. There is, I believe, no need to look beyond the
statutory Master Plan for a solution to Delhi's slum problem and an urgent
need to implement its provisions instead of frittering away public land on
'piloting' proven failures in violation of it."