Millennium Post

Politics of colonies

‘The concerned departments will frame and announce the guidelines to regularise these unauthorised colonies,’ said Arun Jaitley, Union Minister for Finance. The ordinance does not even mention the number of such colonies to be regularised but surely created a ripple among over 50 lakh people living in these colonies. Announcing the decision on 28 December, Jaitley said that the decision would benefit people living in 895 unauthorised colonies but when the BJP workers and representatives of these colonies went to his residence to felicitate him for this ‘people friendly’ decision they held placards that read ‘Thanks for regularising 1,900 unauthorised colonies’.

The BJP leaders did not have an immediate answer for this felicitation. The announcement of only 895 had created a sense of alienation among the inhabitants of the rest of the colonies – the exact number of which is not known to any government agency in the city uptil now. According to a senior BJP leader, the number was tacticaly displayed by state BJP to quell the anger of the voters residing in remaining colonies.

‘We don’t know the exact number of colonies as no record is available but all the existing unauthorised colonies and all the illegal constructions stand regularised,’ said Subhash Arya, chairman of standing committee in South Delhi Municipal Corporation. Arya is also the senior most councillor and is member in the manifesto committee of Delhi BJP. Interestingly, the present ordinance has only extended the cut-off date for regularisation of unauthorised colonies in the city from 2007 to 1 June 2014.

Let’s discuss the motive first – vote politics and the question on how much this ordinance would be helpful to regularise these colonies, would come later. Again, no credible data is available but Delhi BJP leaders and also those who claim to understand the Delhi politics firmly believe that voters of unauthorised colonies were the reason why Congress won in 1998, 2003 and 2008 Delhi assembly elections.

The political strategists also believe that it was loyalty shift of these people in 2013 Delhi assembly elections which confined the Congress to its minimum eight MLAs and blessed newbie Aam Aadmi Party to 28 MLAs. The strategy of the BJP, which had bagged 32 seats in last elections, in the upcoming Delhi assembly elections is to snatch maximum seats from AAP from areas having  maximum unauthorised colonies. ‘In last assembly elections we had got maximum seats in rural areas like West Delhi, northwest Delhi and Najafgarh but least from areas where unauthorised colonies are located in majority,’ said Vijay Goel, then president of Delhi BJP.

The party had got only two out of 10 assembly segments of New Delhi MP seat, two out of 10 in East Delhi and only four out of 10 seats in northeast Delhi MP seat. ‘BJP is playing dirty politics and they neither can nor have intent to benefit the “poor” living in these unauthorised colonies,’ said Arvinder Singh Lovely, Delhi Congress president who held several ministries in Sheila Dikshit government. The Aam Aadmi Party also terms this move a complete cheating with the people of Delhi.

‘People have become smarter. They know the real politics of BJP. Voters will reply the way they had replied to Congress’s poll gimmick,’ said Nagender Sharma, spokesperson of AAP.

If an internal two-day survey conducted by the BJP recently, the party is game to win 25-27 seats out of 29 assembly seats where unauthorised colonies would play a major role. Three seats where the party still feels weak are – Okhla, Deoli and Badli. As per an internal survey of the BJP, the decisive vote bank include Narela, Sangam Vihar, Badarpur, Mehrauli, Ghonda, Mustafabad, Jafarabad, Uttam Nagar, Vikas Puri, Palam, Dwarka, Matiala, Patpargunj, Laxmi Nagar, Yamuna Vihar etc.

Interestingly, most of the seats that had strong presence of unauthorised colonies were wrested by AAP in last assembly elections from the Congress. However, assembly segments that had strong presence of unauthorised colonies but were situated on Haryana border were won by the BJP but those bordering Uttar Pradesh and Faridabad were bagged by the Aam Aadmi Party. With its decision to authorise these unauthorised colonies, the BJP expects to improve its tally from last 32 assembly seats to 50 plus or atleast a comfortable majority of 40 plus in all adverse conditions.

The move is also to please another consolidated strong vote bank of Delhi, the migrants of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar known as Poorvanchali. According to an estimate, atleast 12 assembly segments in Delhi have strong presence of Poorvanchali voters out of which five have over 50 per cent of votes from this community. The assembly segments having highest percentage of voters from Poorvanchal are – Burari (50 per cent), Kirari (54 per cent), Badli (46 per cent) Dwarka (53 per cent) Uttam Nagar (52 per cent), Laxmi Nagar (54 per cent), Vikarpuri (43 per cent), Sangam Vihar (55 per cent), Matiala (40 per cent), Patpargunj (40 per cent), Badarpur and Nangloi (43 per cent).

‘We are drafting guidelines for regularisation of these unauthorised colonies which would be put before board meeting for approval,’ said Balvinder Kumar, Vice Chairman of Delhi Development Authority. He, however, could not reply how to proceed further. Even the secretary level officers are tight-lipped on the issue. Besides the challenges of providing civic amenities like drainage, sanitation the major challenge is to extend emergency services in these colonies where roads are as narrow as three to five feet.

‘We have demanded the UD ministry to allow registry of properties in these colonies and all the benefits including bank loan,’ said Satish Upadhyay. But the issue is not so simple as banks don’t approve home loan without sanction of map which is not just a government document but certificate of structural safety of the building. It is also the basis of ‘insurance’ of the bank loan. If the building is not secure the insurance company will take the fee for reinsurance but deny the benefit of insurance on this ground at the time of need.

Furthermore, the issue of passing lay out plans of 312 out of 985 unauthorised colonies notified by Sheila Dikshit government in 2012 is still stuck with MCDs. The MCDs had roped in services of School of Planning and Architecture, IP University and Jamia Millia Islamia and released Rs 30 lakhs to prepare lay out plans of over a dozen colonies.

These papers are still pending with MCDs as RWAs never turned up to deposit the required fee for making lay out plans. It would be interesting to see how the BJP, which had managed a Lokayukta against Dikshit on the ground of ‘political benefit’ and non-feasibility of the project, would play with this hot potato.

Unauthorised Colonies

1961: On 19 July 1961 Delhi administration decided to regularise unauthorised colonies following which 103 such colonies were regularised between 1960 to 1962.

16 February 1977: The Union Ministry for Urban Development decided to unauthorise colonies on private land after charging them development charges. The argument for the decision was that ‘DDA was unable to construct enough low cost housing to provide large scale migrants’ who resorted to private developers.  Till October 1993, 567 unauthorised colonies were regularised by above policy which are known as ‘Unauthorised Regularised (UR)’ colonies in Delhi.

1999: The government decided to regularise 1071 unauthorised colonies having 50 per cent of construction by 2002 aerial photographs and directed DSIDC and MCD to construct roads and drains on 1071 such colonies. The government also decided to provide sanitation services in unauthorised colonies where roads and drains have been constructed in the past.

2002: On 31 March 2002, Union Ministry of Urban Development issued guidelines to regularise unauthorised colonies developed on lands of various government agencies by charging land rate and penalty besides extending cut off date to 10 February, 2004. Delhi government however requested to waive land rates and penalties.

2004: In October 2004, Delhi government invited applications from Resident Welfare Association (RWA) of unauthorised colonies existing as on 31 March 2002. In response, 1,432 colonies applied for regularisation with their required certificates and map prepared by recognised architects.

2008: In March 2008, the cut off date was extended to 2007. Ahead of Delhi assembly elections 2008, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the presence of then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit distributed ‘Provision Regularisation Certificates’ (PRC) to over 1,218 unauthorised colonies and announced to regularise 1,639 unauthorised colonies. The case was challenged in Delhi High Court, Delhi Lokayukta also started inquiry in 2010 on complaint by then BJP MLA Harsh Vardhan. The government did not take any step till the next Delhi assembly elections in 2013.

2012: In the run up to Delhi assembly elections 2013, Delhi government on 4 November 2013 notified regularisation of 895 unauthorised colonies out of which 312 were on private land and rest on the land owned by various government departments from revenue to forest to archaeology to DDA to MCD. The colonies on private land were to be regularised after depositing development cost and getting their lay out plan approved while those on public land were to deposit cost of land first. The cut off date of construction was kept at satellite image of 2007. None of the colonies deposited even a single rupee to government exchequer so far but demands were raised to regularise them for free.

2014: Union Ministry of Urban Development promulgated an ordinance to regularise all the unauthorised colonies that came up in Delhi till June 2014 on ‘as is where is basis’. ‘The detailed guidelines will be issued later,’ said Arun Jaitley, Union Minister for Finance and Information & Broadcasting. The ordinance does not mention the number of colonies to be regularised with without charges.
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