Tikender Singh Panwar
JUST recently, the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi has welcomed the decision of the ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) to regularise 1,797 unauthorised colonies (UAC) in Delhi. There is a wave of cheer in the city amongst the residents in these UACs, but there is also deep scepticism. The residents are aware of the history of such decisions taken in the past, some of which were partly implemented, some decisions taken only during elections and never implemented. The present time period also generates this scepticism; the elections to the Delhi state assembly are a few months away. Why the central government kept the file of regularisation of UACs under the carpet for almost 3 years as the AAP government claims in Delhi?
Apparently, such UAC colonies exist in a large number of cities in the country. Since urban development is a state subject, there are laws in respective states under the town and country planning department to deal with regularisation of UACs. Here we would like to deal with the Delhi model.
Before we go into the details of the proposals let us understand what the UAC colonies mean.
Unauthorised colonies, unlike the slums are habitations where land has been bought by the people and then houses were constructed on this land. Or, there may be cases where the land owner himself has constructed houses and sold them to multiple buyers. Slums, mainly are on government land; they occupy not more than three to five per cent of the total land mass of the city. We are not sure how much land mass in the city is under the UACs, but for obvious reasons it is not less than 15 per cent. In 1962, there were 110 unauthorised colonies where some two-lakh people lived. As of now, about 50 lakh residents, which are 30 per cent of Delhi’s population, reside in these colonies.
Why is it that despite land in majority of colonies was bought by the people, still the houses and habitations are termed unauthorised? One of the reasons is that they do not confirm to the provisions of the ‘master plan’ of the city. The master plan is a statutory document that exhibits how the town should be shaped. Some of the UACs are constructed on lands that were meant for agriculture, a few on river banks etc. Besides, the floor area ratio (some places it is called FSI),used in zoning to limit urban density and to limit the vertical height of the building, was also compromised. In simpler language it means that in a colony, where only three storey high buildings were to be constructed, more than that number were built by the people and hence it is unauthorised.
The characteristic of UAC is that the residents cannot legally transfer their land, and service provisioning is low and insufficient. Residents do however, enjoy more secure land tenure rights than those in other types of unplanned settlements, like slums (slum designated areas) and jhuggi jhopri clusters (non-notified slums, or JJCs).
The crisis has also precipitated because of the failure of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to meet the ever-growing demand of low-cost housing in the capital, and this led to a mushrooming of unauthorised settlements. According to the master plan, 80 per cent of the housing should have been for the economically weaker sections, however inverse happened. The DDA constructed only 20 per cent for the EWS.
The essence of regularisation is to change its land usage. Such areas are the ones where people inhabit it, bypassing the norms. However, the government can regularise these colonies owing to people’s pressure and thus turn UAC into a legal one.
In the past too, some of the colonies were regularised. In 2012, 895 colonies were regularised by the then Congress government led by Sheila Dikshit. Professor Neelima Risbud, Dean, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi says, formal land supply continued to be inadequate due to delays in land acquisition process. She has even targeted the master plan and said that the high standards of development adopted by the master plan have effectively made the development unaffordable for lower income groups.
The policy of regularisation of UACs in Delhi is placed in the DDA notification of March 24, 2003, titled, ‘Regulations for Regularisation of Unauthorised Colonies’ under Section 57 of the 1957 DDA Act. The cut of date as mentioned is March 31, 2002. It means that all those houses constructed before that shall be eligible for regularisation. The Delhi government is demanding to rescind it and has asked the cut of date to be changed to March 2019.
An NGO by the name Common Cause Society approached the Delhi High Court against the Delhi government’s decision to regularise 1071 colonies on the manner in which regularisation was done. The courts intervened and restrained the government from regularisation. However, it asked the government to prepare guidelines for the regularisation process. The guidelines were placed in 2007 by the government and regulations in 2008 were framed following which application from UACs was sought. Applications were filed by 1,639 colonies for regularisation. By September 2012, the Delhi government claimed that it had regularised 895 UACs.
There exists ambiguity on the cut-off dates for the regularisation of the UACs. The 2007 guidelines mentions two dates. The first one is, habitations existing as on March 31, 2002. However, 2008 regulations specify the same cut-off date but it does not specify the date of formal regularisation. The formal announcement is February 7, 2002. Clarity of these two dates is important. The eligibility of a colony or part thereof to be regularised is determined by requirements that hinge on these dates. Though the AAP government has said that all conditions of the central government are accepted to them, still there are 12 suggestions that the Delhi government has sent to the centre. One of the suggestions is to fix a new cut-off date of March 31, 2019 for regularisation instead of January 1, 2015.
Ambiguity exists over the regularisation fees, the stamp duty that will be levied on the registry of these properties. The centre has proposed one per cent charge of circle rate of nearest colonies, AAP government has requested that lowest circle rate of nearest colonies should be applicable. In Delhi, there are three types of land - government land, agriculture land and private land - where unauthorised colonies have come up. Delhi has been divided into eight categories (A-H), where circle rates are charged accordingly.
The residents have complained that the rates are too high and it will be beyond their scope to pay such a hefty amount. Take for example if an unauthorised colony is near ‘A’ category which has a circle rate of Rs 10,00,000 per square metre, then owner of a plot of 200 square metres shall have to pay Rs 10,000 per square metre(one per cent of circle rate) as land cost and besides that Rs 3,870 per square metre penalty taking the amount to Rs 13,870 per square metre. Thus, for a plot of 200 square metres it will jump up to Rs 27,74,000 as total regularisation fees. This is a huge amount which the residents will be forced to pay. Experts believe this will benefit the builder lobby in the city.
In such a background the state government of Delhi has sent some recommendations to the central government. A few of them are as:
- There should be ‘mixed land use’ to allow commercial activities in UACs. Also, an owner of a plot should be provided loan by the bank.
- Those residents who have got general power of attorney (GPA) till June 30, 2019, should also be given ownership rights.
- In future, if any unauthorised colonies come up, the service of the area's Sub Divisional Magistrate, Station House Officer and Municipal Officer should be terminated.
FOR A PRO-PEOPLE APPROACH
- UACs are a reality of our cities throughout the country. They are inhabited by 25-30 per cent people under different names and types. Various states like MP, Punjab etc., have attempted but failed at regularisation. The courts have stepped in and stated that the process is illegal. The central government should look into the colonies at a national level; it should frame guidelines for the same. Though land is a state subject but a central legislation can be thought of to ensure that the habitations are protected.
- UACs are a mark of failure in planning and design, whilst Delhi government says that if any new colony comes, it will lead to officers being fired/ dismissed, but it also shows paralysis of planning. The DDA is the largest landlord in the city; it has become a land hoarder and did not focus on public housing. Land should be a subject of the state government even in Delhi akin to other states.
- Regularisation is just the beginning of a dignified living. Living conditions in these UACs must be improved and basic infrastructure must be provided.
- The Delhi government is willing to talk about colonies; it is still silent on slums. Other than the promise of slum’s surveys, it is not talking about rights in the slums. The slums occupy a lesser land area, but house almost the same population. While the government endorses colony regularisation, which is good and direly required, but at the same time it should also begin a process of providing rights to the slums. To ensure that they are not demolished.