Capital solutions PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 April 2006 00:00
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The ministry of urban development’s proposal to modify the Master Plan for Delhi, if not struck down by the courts, offers at least a partial solution to the situation resulting from the courts ordering that all illegal construction—mostly residential properties being used for commercial activities—be demolished. The proposed solution allows landlords to use the ground floor for commercial use if they meet certain criteria, like the availability of adequate parking. The proposal is to levy a fine which will then be used to create parking spaces, and the norm suggested is parking space of two cars for every 100 square metres of built-up space. The problem of course is that, since the same municipal corporation that was guilty of allowing the illegal use of residential buildings will be in charge of implementing the new Master Plan, similar violations will be repeated unless the guilty officials are made an example of. While some have suggested that the courts appoint a committee to oversee matters (as has been done for monitoring air pollution in the capital), this is not an ideal solution as it involves the courts in executive matters.
One way to make the corporation more responsive to local residents would be to have greater delegation of functioning down to the zonal level, with the zones being made smaller than today. Under the present system, the size of each corporation ward is so large (on average, one lakh persons elect one councillor) that accountability for local issues becomes diffuse and the purpose of local government is not served.
A parallel solution required is to eliminate the multiplicity of authorities that today run the city’s affairs. While the area administered by the New Delhi Municipal Committee is much smaller (and comprises the VIP area in the heart of the city), the fact is that similar building violations have not taken place in the NDMC area. It would make sense therefore to find out what has made the NDMC a more effective body and to then find a way to extend those rules to the corporation area, and then perhaps to merge the two bodies in the hope that best practices will survive.
But administrative functioning can work only in rational situations. And the plain fact is that the original culprit responsible for the unholy mess in the city is a third body called the Delhi Development Authority—which has failed to create the commercial space required for a city of Delhi’s size and population. Based on generally accepted norms with regard to the number of shops that should be created for every 100 persons in a city, the amount of commercial space actually created by the DDA so far is less than a fifth of what is required. In other words, if there were no illegal shops (the natural result if all the illegal buildings are demolished), the capital’s citizens would be put to great inconvenience. This is why it makes sense to allow mixed land use and to have many of the illegal shops survive under new rules, effectively enforced. But questions should be asked of the DDA as to why it has failed so abjectly to do what is required.
One problem is that the DDA is not under the control of the Delhi government—and this comes back to the problem of multiple authorities in the city. Having been created by an Act of Parliament, it reports to the central ministry of urban development. So it is ironic that while the corporation is an independent civic body and the DDA reports to the Centre, the person who gets the flak for the mess is the chief minister as the head of a mostly powerless Delhi government.



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