There is no doubt that the current status of India’s urban infrastructure is not in great shape. Every now and then we hear about log traffic jams, overflowing sewers, garbage spill over, flyovers falling down, roads caving in and many more such incidences happening in and around our ‘world-class’ urban cities. One of the prime reasons for all these problems is the poor urban planning and lack of foresightedness among our bureaucrats.
Encroachment and the issue of irregular colonies in Delhi are also some of the critical by-products of poor planning and execution of urban development policies. The issue of encroachment became so grief that the Supreme Court finally had to intervene where it directed the city authorities to check and get rid of the illegal construction. It is the plight of irony that the Supreme Court had to again intervene to get its directives implemented by the local authorities.
Let’s put some light of the issue of Unauthorised colonies in Delhi.
The story of unauthorized colonies started in the year 1931 when the erstwhile British Raj decided to make Delhi as its capital city. Apparently, as Delhi mostly constituted villages and farmlands then, the British Raj started development on the farmlands and circumscribed the rural residential areas by a red line and defined them by the term — ‘Lal Dora’.
While rest of the areas developed, these Lal Doras lagged behind. The Central government, thus, took the decision to urbanize these villages in a phased manner. However, bureaucratic delay in the issue of the requisite notification declaring the villages as ‘urban’, resulted in unplanned growth around the villages.
To regulate these Unauthorised colonies and monitor the overall development DDA was brought into existence in 1957. However, since its inception, the DDA has repeatedly failed to keep pace with the rapidly growing population and its infrastructural needs.
The Current Crisis
The building laws in Delhi are regulated by more than 15 urban authorities, each overlapping the other. This red-tapism encourages citizens to go for unauthorized construction than to get stuck in various laws and by-laws and Babugiri.
This problem is persistent since last 50 years. Many Acts and Laws were enacted and failed. Voices were raised to regularise these colonies but, time and again, the campaigns fell on deft ears. In fact, the Government has not been able to regularise even a single colony since 2006. This shows how impractical the policies are.
The Way Forward
Relax the norms for regularisation: The norms like minimum 50% built up, 15 feet street width, 32 sq. mt. of plot size requirement and most important, the red-tapism should be attended immediately. Most of the unauthorized colonies have streets that are less than 15 feet. This is also because whenever the residents approach the authorities to approve their building plans, the later has asked to produce the ownership papers and have asked them to leave space for ‘proposed’ widening of streets. The residents found it easy to carry on with the construction than to get into the trap of Babus.
As per the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business Report’, published in 2018, India ranks 181 out of 190 countries in ‘Ease of Construction Permissions’. This is highly critical and must be attended on an immediate basis. There are many countries who follow lesser complicated procedures for approvals. Countries like Singapore have ‘self-certified’ mechanism where, if the building plans are certified by the registered checkers, the local bodies need not get into it.
The authorities and the government must understand that any unplanned construction causes damage to the city, its resources and the residents as a whole. The need of the hour is to regularise the unauthorized colonies and bring them under the ambit of planned development for the betterment of its residents and the city at large.