Enforcement is the key PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 April 2006 00:00
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The Delhi government’s decision to clear a comprehensive parking policy that asks the police to allow registrations of new cars only after the intending buyer can show garaging facilities will probably create more problems than it will solve. For example, how do you prove that the plot of public space outside your house is your “garaging facility” and not your neighbour’s? But it offers the solution to the other problems the city is going through, with the courts ordering the demolition of illegal buildings and the executive legalising this by coming up with mixed use norms in the Master Plan. Of course, even if mixed use is allowed, there will be other issues that need to be sorted out. One such issue is that commercial land is generally more expensive than residential land. So, the issue of conversion charges will still have to be dealt with. There is also the issue of tariffs, which, like for water and electricity, are different for commercial and residential uses, and are obviously easier to administer in areas where there is no mixed use of land.
But leave those aside for the moment, and focus on what the real problem is. Even when it is allowed on larger roads, mixed land use will invariably creep into the narrow lanes of most colonies over a period of time. The real problem is not with just the aesthetics of seeing a car showroom next door, but the fact that the showroom parks its cars on the public road, as do those who come to see and buy those cars. So, the road you thought was meant for you and your visitors is no longer available. Similarly, when small hotels masquerading as guest houses come up in a colony, they add to the parking problem and cause a severe shortage of water.
The solution then lies in pricing such services appropriately. If parking is charged for, the car showroom will either find it too expensive to remain in the residential area or will pay enough rentals to fund the setting up of multi-storeyed parking complexes in nearby areas. Another solution is to ensure that such commercial undertakings make their own arrangements, either in the form of underground parking or through water tankers that are commercially paid for. This is the crux of the problem. While all such action will be promised at the time of getting the approval for mixed use, the track record shows that commercial users will continue to use public land as one gigantic and free parking space and/or source for free water. If the mixed use solution has to fly, the government will have to demonstrate its intent to regulate fairly. So far, there is no sign of this. The biggest culprit, apart from those who built the illegal buildings, are some truant officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. But all that has happened so far are some stray transfers—no dismissal, no jail term, no attempt to disgorge the bribes they took. So why should anyone believe the government now? One way is to put in place a policy that requires resident welfare associations (RWA) to monitor such mixed use and the levying of high user charges for commercial activity. The RWAs should also report directly to the courts on such compliance.



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