We, in professions or politics or government or NGOs, call them ‘slums’, their residents ‘poor’ and ‘vulnerable’ if we are good guys or ‘encroachers’ and ‘migrants’ and more if we are bad guys. In democracy that must surely be in infancy if not actually stillborn, ‘we’ do not even think of ‘them’ as citizens. Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi is a ‘slum’ because we say so. Many if not most of its residents are citizens because their actions say so, in ways that many if not most of us have yet to learn to speak.

Rangpuri Pahari is described as the area west of Vasant Kunj flats in South Delhi, though it is more accurate to describe Vasant Kunj as the area east of Rangpuri Pahari, which was there long before. Quarrying of stone (‘pahar’) in the area started in the ‘50s. Contractors ‘settled’ workers in various places. Some opted to live close to the main Mehrauli-Mahipalpur road and thus came about the settlement of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi. Others opted to live closer to the quarries further south and thus came about the settlement of Rangpuri Pahari Nala. Some Muslim families opted to live separately in a settlement north across the road and thus came about the settlement of Rangpuri Pahari Sarak Paar. Later a driver engaged in transporting stone started a settlement between Malakpur Kohi and Nala, known after him as Israil Camp.

A fair amount of Delhi’s ‘planned development’ including its airport is made out of stone quarried from Rangpuri Pahari. These four old settlements were of workers who quarried this stone when needed, broke it into various sizes as needed and transported it to where needed till the quarries were closed pursuant to Supreme Court directions. Even now, especially in Malakpur Kohi and Nala, most families are of quarry workers.

When Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi came into being in the ‘50s, there was only Mahipalpur village to the west and Sultangarhi Tomb to the east. The settlement drew its name, Malakpur Kohi, from the original kasba that grew around Sultangarhi Tomb in the 13th century and was the original settlement from where residents moved to establish Mahipalpur and villages further west, when they abandoned the kasba in the 17th century when its wells ran dry.

When Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi came into being in the ‘50s, there was only Mahipalpur village to the west and Sultangarhi Tomb to the east. The settlement drew its name, Malakpur Kohi, from the original kasba that grew around Sultangarhi Tomb in the 13th century and was the original settlement from where residents moved to establish Mahipalpur and villages further west, when they abandoned the kasba in the 17th century when its wells ran dry.

The Master Plan for Delhi promulgated in 1962 had designated this entire area beyond urbanisable limits for reasons of constrained water sources. The area south of the main road, including the settlement of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi, was earmarked inviolable green belt. The settlement thus became a ‘non-conforming’ use meriting priority in relocation under the statutory provisions of the Plan. At the time, the minimum permissible plot sizes were 80 square metres. But development of green belt was not a priority, so Delhi Development Authority (DDA) did not relocate the settlement to a planned location. At the end of the ‘70s a government school was set up just west.

In the mid-80s, DDA came out with its Vasant Kunj scheme beyond urbanisable limits, partly in inviolable green to the east of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi. Although the Plan required pre-existing settlements to be integrated in new development, this was not done. The only ‘benefit’ that seems to have accrued to the old residents of the area from new planned development is employment opportunities in construction and domestic work. At the time Vasant Kunj was being designed the minimum plot sizes being considered were in the range of 30 to 50 square metres. Smaller plot sizes had been tried in some schemes, but the mid-term appraisal of the Plan had rejected these experiments. In 1990 the revised Master Plan was approved. Norms for residential development required all residential areas to have 25 per cent housing by way of cheap plots (normally not less than 25 square metres) and another 20 per cent by way of small houses to ensure integrated neighbourhoods. Although the scheme for Vasant Kunj was otherwise designed as per the norms of the Master Plan as approved in 1990, the housing component was skewed in favour of up-market housing. Sites earmarked for low-income housing were, nevertheless, more than adequate for the existing low-income population in Rangpuri Pahari, but no effort was made to integrate these pre-existing settlements into the Vasant Kunj scheme.

Also in 1990 token numbers and identity cards were issued to all slum families in Delhi. This well-intentioned initiative was a response ‘on the rebound’, so to speak, to high-handed slum relocation that the city had been witnessing and was meant to provide some security to slum dwellers. It did, however, have the unfortunate effect of reducing all ‘slums’ to the same common denominator irrespective of whether they were old settlements politely waiting their turn in ‘planned development’ or recent shanties set up by slum landlords in areas not meant for habitation. Through the ‘90s the ‘slum problem’ in Delhi became definitely de-linked from low-income housing supply by DDA, Master Plan provisions meant for the contrary notwithstanding. In Vasant Kunj sites meant for low-income flats were developed and disposed off in ways certain to attract upper-income groups and, in complete abandonment of its mandate of planned development for equitable benefits for all, DDA has even disposed off low-income housing as high-income flats.

The poor are no longer settled in this city, but allowed to become slum dwellers, whereupon they are occasionally re-settled - in far away locations, in sub-standard housing really no different from slums, and only when the land they occupy is needed for some other greater common good that is greater than the good of the common.

For residents of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi ‘the greater common good’ arrived without notice on the afternoon of 5 July 2000 in the form of a bulldozer, and 50 of the more than 500 homes in this 50-year-old settlement were summarily demolished.

I met residents of Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi for the first time on the morning of 6 July 2000 and have come to know them well as clients and as friends. With rare tenacity not only have they been engaging on implementation of their entitlements but also inspiring and helping others to do the same. This part-account of their work since I've known them is, I think, enough to explain why they cannot be called ‘encroachers’ and must be most respectfully called citizens.

July 2000 - April 2002: Entitlements and efforts

Translated text of letter of 14.04.2002 from residents of Rangpuri Pahari to DDA Vice Chairman

Sub: DDA’s new scheme on the site adjoining the ~50 year old settlement of Rangpuri Pahari


Along with several other local citizens’ groups, we also object to DDA’s above-mentioned scheme, on account of which we faced demolition without notice in July 2000. Our objection is based on two main grounds. One, we think that if land here continues to be used up like this for new schemes for new people, no land will be left to take care of our ‘backlog’ entitlements for planned housing under the Master Plan. Beyond saying that it is clear from Master Plan provisions that housing for our pre-Plan settlement should have already been developed within the area we will not elaborate on this aspect, on which our planner consultant will be writing to you separately. The other basis for our objection is that, in view of the way in which DDA has been skirting since the year 2000 our requests for plans and details of its proposed development here, we get the distinct impression that its scheme is actually ‘unplanned’. Furthermore, in view of our experiences of the last two years, regrettably we also get the impression that DDA is simply not interested in planned development in line with the Master Plan. Through this letter we are placing a detailed account of our experiences over the last two years before you. We hope that you will, if you look at things from our perspective, be able to see how we reached these worrying conclusions. And, perhaps, also understand that for so long we have been only trying to engage DDA on a dialogue about our legitimate entitlements, which DDA is duty-bound to implement.

1. On 05.07.2000 a bulldozer razed nearly 50 homes in our nearly 50-year old settlement with about 500 homes, without any notice. On 18.07.2000 we were able to meet with the Union Urban Development Minister, Mr Jagmohan, as a result of which he gave us written permission for reconstruction. Already we had filed a petition before the National Human Rights Commission, on which the Commission issued notice to Delhi and Union governments on 20.11.2000.

2. For a few months after the demolition we believed that the zonal plan for this area, earmarked for rural / agricultural landuse in the Master Plan, would have been approved and public notice regarding landuse change issued. In this context, and with reference to the discussion with the Minister, a request to incorporate our old settlement in DDA’s new scheme was made through a letter to then DDA Vice-Chairman on 18.08.2000.

3. The NHRC inquiry found that DDA, which had been denying responsibility for the demolition, had initiated it. Thereafter we started writing to DDA for details of its scheme. On 05.12.2000 we wrote to DDA Vice Chairman, Commissioner (Planning) and Commissioner (Land) for approved zonal plan, etc, for the area. On 20.12.2000, 27.12.2000 and 10.01.2001 we tried to procure the zonal plan from DDA’s offices. On 18.01.2001 we wrote again to DDA Vice Chairman, etc, as well as to the sales-counter in-charge, who later told us that there was no zonal plan for the area as yet. On 07.02.2001, 07.03.2001 and 11.04.2001 we wrote again to DDA Vice Chairman, etc. Despite writing every month between December and April and making several trips to the DDA sales counter, we were unable to get either the zonal plan or any information about it.

4. In May we read in the newspapers about a sites-and-services scheme near us for shifting people from Nangal to which they were not willing to shift. On 14.05.2001 we wrote to you to request that we be shifted there instead. We asked also for details of other low-income housing schemes in the area. We also requested you to please propose in the court appointed coordination committee a comprehensive approach whereby, instead of having to shift from here to there and there to here, people might be able to shift to places of their choice. You did not reply to this letter.

5. Then soil testing started on the site just west of us. Workers told us DDA flats were going to be constructed here. On 15.06.2001 we wrote to you to say

“Since we have not been able to procure the plan for the area, we do not know the rationale for making flats here. But being old residents, we can clearly see the following reasons to not do so:

(1) The land further west has been used for a long time now for sanitary landfill. If this is the proposed land use, then housing in the vicinity is not appropriate. And if it is not, then the same area may be most suited for water harvesting as there used to be a seasonal lake here. In that case, too, building flats may not be appropriate.

(2) East of the site is our 50 year old settlement and south of it is the 22 year old government school used by our children. Construction of flats here will create mutual problems for old and new residents.

(3) The site is located close to Sultangarhi tomb and the ridge and big construction on it may not be appropriate.

Besides, we had assumed, in the context of the attempted demolition in July 2000, that the area is to be developed as a green belt as per the Master Plan. If the area is being considered appropriate for residential development, we request you to accord priority to housing us rather than anyone else on it.”

6. Then on 18.06.2001 some DDA officials visited the settlement in the late afternoon and told us that a DDA scheme was planned here for which we would be relocated some place far away. On 20.06.2001 we wrote to you to say:

“DDA’s proposal is entirely unacceptable to us because we do not think it is in line with the Master Plan. Under the provisions of the Plan, we see no basis for DDA – duty bound to implement it – to throw us out to make way for housing for anyone else. We are willing to contribute to planned development of Delhi, but we will oppose Master Plan violations, even if they are done by DDA. Until we get satisfactory clarifications from DDA, we will not cooperate with your officials. We hope that at least now DDA will reply to us.”

7. On 27.06.2001 we again wrote to you. And on 04.07.2001, when a full year had passed since the demolition without notice and repeated requests for clarifications about our entitlements thereafter, we wrote to you to say:

“To mark the ‘anniversary’ of the demolition action we will now wait for answers outside your Master Plan office. We hope that our visible presence will move DDA to find time to reply to us”.

8. Our ‘demonstration’ lasted two months. Two other settlements and the forum of students and parents from Rangpuri Pahari and the association of hawkers in Vasant Kunj, all of whom, like us, were ‘demanding’ implementation of Master Plan provisions, also joined us. Numerous flat residents, who were also ‘requesting’ you through their associations and their Federation for development according to the Master Plan, came to express solidarity. But not one official from DDA, the custodian of the Master Plan, showed any interest in this open display of citizens’ support for the Master Plan.

9. Amazed at DDA’s indifference, four weeks into our demonstration we wrote to our ‘leaders’ a letter in which we said:

“Relocation of our 50-year old settlement is proposed to make way for a DDA scheme. We are opposing this relocation – not by begging for humane consideration of our problems, but by reminding DDA of its duty. Our case is crystal clear. The Master Plan provides for housing for us somewhere within the area, which DDA should accord priority to as ‘implementation backlog’. Others may think what they please about the Plan, but we think that its statutory provisions for settling us are far better than policies of resettlement or upgradation announced every other day. So we are demanding only the implementation of the Master Plan here… Because our demonstration is just our demonstration, without any ‘big’ person or party or organisation, the media has also not taken much interest in it. We are writing to let you know of it thinking that perhaps, therefore, you are unaware of it.”

In response to this letter some sent inquiries asking what sort of ‘help’ we wanted. On 08.08.2001 we wrote to say:

“What can we say in response to such a question when we cannot understand why we are having to stand on this pavement everyday in hundreds in this weather? After all, our ‘demand’ of Master Plan implementation is DDA’s job. And in the midst of the ongoing Plan revision, DDA should be grateful to us for our feedback from the ground, the sort of thing it otherwise spends lakhs to ‘study’. With this letter we are sending you three write-ups on the three issues – housing, livelihood and education – for which we are standing here. These write-ups include a description of the efforts we had already made before coming out to stand here and summaries of the reports we have sent to DDA. From these it is clear that we have already helped ourselves. Perhaps it is the badly ailing ‘system’ in this city that badly needs help. That would sort out not only our matters but also those of others like us. That is help that we cannot provide. So we request the following of you:

(1) If from any of our write-ups you think that our case is correct and clear, please prevail upon DDA to carry out in its regard planned development in line with the Master Plan throughout the city and to understand ground realities for the on-going Plan revision.

(2) If you think that our demonstration is legitimate please intervene to stop attempts being made every other day to stop it so that DDA does not get away so easily without answering questions raised by citizens.

(3) If you can, do explain to us how in the capital of the world’s largest democracy is DDA’s rule any different from British rule, why masters must have to do so much to remind servants of their job, and how and why should we celebrate Independence Day on 15th August.

We do not expect at all that you leave issues of national importance to come and stand with us on the pavement for our local problem. We only expect, in the midst of tall claims about citizens’ participation, that you will do something to create an environment of transparency and accountability needed for citizens’ to be able to resolve local problems within the ambit of the law.”

10. Dismayed by the indifference of DDA, especially its planners, our planner consultant sent you on 31.07.2001 a report on the area’s slums in the context of Master Plan provisions. Already on 04.07.2001 she had sent you a request, along with a detailed note, to consider an area-based approach to Master Plan implementation in the discussion on ‘pilot projects’ going on in the court appointed coordination committee, of which you are a member. You did not respond to her either.

11. On 10.08.2001 we wrote to Union Urban Development Minister, Mr. Jagmohan, whose commitment to planned development according to the Master Plan is well known, to say:

“We had tried our best to dialogue with DDA in other ways. It was only after we got no response for a year that we took to the pavement. Here, too, for a month we did not solicit any one else’s intervention. But now we do not think DDA is likely to ever understand that we are not begging for its favour, only reminding it of its mandate of development according to Plan, while giving it useful feedback for Plan revision free of cost… The write-ups we had sent you with our letter clearly show that we are not asking for anything more than what we are entitled to under the Plan and that we have already done enough by way of ‘citizens’ participation’. Now we only request that you spare some time to meet us…”

We faxed this letter every day for several days to the Minister. Our consultant also wrote to him on our behalf. On 24.08.2001 she raised the matter of housing, education and livelihood related Master Plan provisions – which we were demonstrating about – as an expert in a round-table meeting of the Planning Commission. Although the Minister and you were both present and our consultant’s presentation was first and she had also requested you both beforehand to spare time for it, you both left after the Minister’s inaugural address. Subsequently our consultant requested you both by fax to spare some time at your convenience for a discussion, but neither of you responded even to this request.

12. On the other hand, on 21.08.2001 a JCB arrived on the site next to our settlement. We told officials that we have written to you that till we receive a reply to our questions from DDA we will continue to consider this scheme ‘unplanned’ and will oppose it as responsible citizens. On 21.08.2001 itself we wrote to you about the episode, reiterating our stand and its basis. You did not reply.

13. On 05.09.2001, after getting the support of our elected representatives, we suspended our demonstration. On 06.09.2001 we sent you a memorandum re-stating our issues. In this we said that since our ‘demands’ for cheap housing, space for livelihood and education facilities for our children are entirely in line with what is anticipated and provided for in the Master Plan,

“it is obvious that the ‘unplanned’, ‘unauthorised’ and problematic status of the ‘poor’ here is the result of DDA’s indifference towards Master Plan provisions meant for their benefit. What planned development calls for is for DDA to treat the implementation of these provisions as its ‘backlog’ and accord it priority in further developmental work here. But DDA is devoting itself to schemes in departure from the Plan. This is not DDA’s mandate… It is noteworthy that in a meeting on 25 July the Lieutenant Governor had emphasised the need for a Master Plan for education, at the Planning Commission meeting on 24 August Mr. Jagmohan had emphasised the need to implement existing provisions rather than coming out with new solutions in the matter of slums, last week the Prime Minister himself intervened in the matter of hawkers… Our ‘demand’ for implementation of education, housing and livelihood related provisions of the Master Plan is in line with all these views… It is obvious that not only is our perspective logical, it has the explicit and implicit support of premier public representatives. In any case our ‘demand’ for Master Plan implementation is DDA’s job, even the basis of its existence…”

We also said in this memorandum that if DDA does not respond in writing to us by 16.09.2001 we will agitate. You did not respond.

14. In view of the situation arising out of the terrorist attack in the US on 11.09.2001, we decided against overt protest. On 17.09.2001 we wrote to you to say:

“We have been alleging that DDA, duty-bound to develop public land in accordance with the Master Plan, is engaging instead in profiteering on it. If DDA had to counter our allegations, supported with evidence from the ground in our reports sent to you, it should have done so. And if these allegations have merit, as a public agency, it should have engaged with us on the proposals made in our reports to make amends, besides to use timely feedback for the on-going Master Plan revision. ...DDA’s indifferent attitude towards us is as regrettable as its profiteering on public land. To oppose such attitude of public authorities is not only the right but also the responsibility of citizens.”

Thereafter, we started mobilising other local citizens’ groups on the issue of planned development in line with the Master Plan. DDA, mandated to do precisely this, did not consider it necessary to respond to us.

15. Through all this, while DDA had expressed no interest in understanding our viewpoint, you all seemed bent upon misunderstanding us. On 16.08.2001 we had written to you about officials in your Master Plan office to say:

“On independence day yesterday our demonstration completed six weeks… According to the Constitution of India, it is the people who are supreme, not DDA. Viewed from this perspective our demonstration appears very odd… Officers pass us by and laugh at us. They use government phones to lodge false police complaints about breakage and violence, which is not happening. They send word that they have nothing to do with Plan implementation. Not one officer working on the Plan revision has considered it necessary to come out and speak with us about existing Plan provisions. We really have no expectations from the revised Plan being made by those who have such understanding of their own roles as planners and public servants. We would rather have the provisions of the existing Plan implemented for us.

Well before this we had already got an idea of how these officers might be mis-informing you about our demonstration when we had gone to leave our consultant’s report in your office. At the reception, where we have become familiar faces, we were advised to go into your public meeting. Taken aback by what you said to us, on 05.08.2001 we had written to you to say:

(1) You said that we are using bad language in our demonstration. We are annexing herewith the main slogans. These show that we are talking mainly about our efforts for Master Plan implementation…

(2) You said what could we possibly tell you about the Master Plan as you have very qualified officers. We are not commenting on qualifications of your planners. We are only saying ground realities do not match the Plan…

(3) You said that our consultant is misleading us. We do not think so. But if this is the case, perhaps your qualified officers can guide us properly. It is noteworthy that this has not happened so far, although we have been standing for over a month outside the office that has perhaps your best planners.

(4) You said our consultant has political ambitions and that if we go to the Supreme Court it will make chutney out of us. All this is irrelevant. Now that we know that the Master Plan is not anti-poor and has adequate provisions for us, our objective is only to support its implementation and to inform the revision process in order to ensure that, instead of removing shortcomings, provisions don’t get downsized.

We believe the Master Plan is not just DDA’s but ours and our effort from the beginning has been to support its implementation. We also believe that citizens’ support in planning is most necessary not in Plan making but in Plan implementation. If you were to see it from our perspective, you would find that our demonstration is not against those in DDA who believe in planned development. Our demonstration is against those who have put the Plan aside to reduce public land acquired in public interest to a means for profiteering. We are very saddened by the fact that even after so much correspondence, reports, etc, we are being misunderstood. We request you to see for yourself our reports, etc, and then judge if we are right or wrong.”

Audio in Hindi X1

16. From your speech at the foundation stone function at Sultangarhi on 25.09.2001 it was obvious that you continued to see us not as responsible citizens seeking rights but as beggars. Thereafter on 29.09.2001, despite the Prime Minister’s directions in the matter of hawkers in Delhi and despite the fact that DDA had been ignoring the requests of hawkers here for space for them as per the Master Plan, DDA mounted a high-handed confiscation action against them. Shocked by DDA’s attitude, local citizens’ groups engaging on planned development issues came together to form the Master Plan Implementation Support Group (MPISG). Through a copy of the letter to Prime Minister, this information also reached you. But you did not react.

17. Through MPISG we were trying to further our efforts in support of planned development. But DDA and others seemed to be ‘after us’. We and our lady consultant found ourselves caught in threatening, abusive and even violent instances. Information of some of these also reached you. We think DDA’s ostrich like attitude towards those seriously supporting the Plan proved its indifference not only towards its mandate but also towards citizens.

18. Then in January 2002 DDA put up a board on the site west of us that announced a commercial complex. We wrote to you to ask to show us too, at least now, the approved plans. In March construction material arrived on the site. A week later the board was repainted to announce flats. We wrote again to say that if you all have decided what is to be built here, perhaps you could also tell us. DDA did not reply.

19. After this there were some more instances of misbehaviour. In March MPISG decided to participate in the municipal elections. Your presumption that our consultant would get herself a party ticket turned out to be quite wrong. While many of us and, after the demonstration and some other instances afterwards also some politicians, did suggest this to her she only said she was just a planner and since no political party had, despite our requests during our demonstration, taken up Master Plan implementation as an issue, she saw no such role for herself. It was only because some of us kept insisting that because of her ‘hang-ups’ we were losing the opportunity to field our issue on the political agenda that she suggested that if anyone else was willing to contest we could ask for a vote for the Master Plan using the candidate as a proxy. This is what happened. We are especially proud that in both our election booths the Master Plan won. The day the counting proved that we had made it win, DDA started construction on its scheme west of us and made it lose.

20. We do not know what you would see if you would stand where we stand, with our experiences of the last two years behind us, and look at the construction rising against the setting sun every day. But from where we stand it looks to us that while we have repeatedly demonstrated our responsibility and commitment towards the Master Plan, DDA has still to demonstrate its. Our Master Plan Implementation Support Group has proposed to you that DDA should come here and put to rest the concerns that its constituent groups have expressed about this scheme. We hope that DDA will accept this suggestion and discharge its responsibility.

March 2002 - July 2002: Infringement and indifference

DDA's scheme for high-income housing in excess of Master Plan norms in the Master Plan green belt had started without clarifications about its basis and about implementation backlog on Plan entitlements that had been sought since 2000 by residents of Rangpuri Pahari, progressively joined by other citizens' groups from old villages and recent DDA flats and service providers' settlements. Rangpuri Pahari residents continued to ‘monitor’ the construction next door to their settlement and school and to write to DDA and lodge complaints to the Police about illegal tree felling, illegal excavation, illegal wells, an accidental death. They also approached political leaders for intervention. The construction continued. In mid-June it was learned that the scheme did not have benefit of even mandatory land use change. Still, despite numerous requests, the Ministry of Urban Development did not intervene to stop it.

Also in mid-June National Human Rights Commission wrote to me about the case it had opened two years ago on my telephone call about the demolition in Rangpuri Pahari. The letter said the enquiry report had “fully established” demolition and “further stated that demolition had been done without prior notice or warning”, Delhi Government had “admitted that no prior notice was given to the encroachers, as there is no such practice”, DDA had offered similar enroacher explanations, and NHRC had decided “no further action is considered necessary and the case is closed”.The state labeling residents of Rangpuri Pahari ‘encroachers’ made me cringe. The Master Plan and its enabling Act and facilitating land policy preclude lawful application of concept of encroacher to Plan implementation backlog. Under law, it was the illegal scheme for high income flats coming up in our green belt for which the demolition was attempted in 2000 that was encroachment on public land.The timing of NHRC's letter suggested to me the possibility of DDA simply driving in with bulldozers any day. I wrote to NHRC to pick holes in the encroacher perspective and say that I would have placed my arguments before it had I been given an opportunity to do so before the case was closed, and "to place my views as complainant on record. This is only in a feeble attempt to try and ensure that DDA and GoNCT do not now use against us the Commission’s ‘acceptance’ of their incomplete and misleading information". Despite all my personal misgivings about approaching the Courts in matters of entitlements being stoutly denied by society and polity at large I could think of no other course of action.

July 2002 - September 2002: Court cases and leverage

In August 2002 Delhi Science Forum, which had been taking up the ground water implications of further development in the area, filed a PIL against the Sultangarhi scheme for being violative of the Master Plan, Delhi Development Act and Central Ground Water Authority notification and jeopardizing the critical ground water regime. In its counter-affidavit of 09.09.2002 DDA justified the scheme on grounds of enthusiasm about meeting housing shortage as per Prime Minister's directions and about protecting its land from adjoining encroachments . It failed to answer questions raised in the petition and in the part final hearing on 11.09.2002 conceded the scheme had started without due process for land use change. On 15.09.2002 DDA published a Public Notice inviting objections and suggestions on the proposal for change of land use of 56 hectares for the scheme. In the final hearing on 16.09.2002 DDA tried to persuade the Court that the belated Notice was proof of commitment to due process and the scheme should be allowed to go ahead. MoUD placed in court a fax and seemed to be trying to convey the impression of permission . In its judgment of 16.09.2002 Delhi High Court held the scheme to be wholly illegal and without jurisdiction and ordered stoppage and inquiry. > Sultangarhi Case Chronicle2

Meanwhile DDA had moved to re-settle Arjun Camp, one of a cluster of slums in the middle of Vasant Kunj, by offering sub-standard plots in a far away place to a fourth of the residents. In two petitions filed in August 2002 on the basis of prior efforts of residents of Rangpuri Pahari residents of Arjun Camp had moved court to challenge the legality of slum resettlement in violation of the Master Plan and to ask to, instead, be settled in standard housing in the vicinity according to the Plan. On 16.08.2002 Delhi High Court issued notice to DDA. On urgent applications filed pursuant to a demolition threat immediately afterward on 21.08.2002 the Court directed DDA's immediate compliance on providing clarification on entitlements, etc, in response to representations by the petitioners. > Arjun Camp Chronicle3

After the part final hearing of Sultangarhi case I wrote to NHRC in continuation of my previous letter to raise again the question of encroachments .

"DDA is ‘justifying’ its HIG flats (not an implementation priority as per Master Plan norms) on grounds of a Prime Ministerial direction. It is ‘justifying’ its resettlement plots of 12.5 sqm (half the minimum size normally permitted by the Master Plan) on grounds of a government order. It is NOT ‘justifying’ its failure to implement Master Plan provisions for low income housing, NOR its ongoing effort to sell off elsewhere in the same area LIG flats as HIG flats – perhaps because ‘only’ aggrieved citizens are asking. With its ‘policy’ of not giving ‘encroachers’ notice before demolition DDA seems to have given itself powers to punish its victims and, as a corollary, powers to use public land (placed in its custody for development according to Plan with a special focus on safeguarding the interests of the poor) for unplanned development. This is not called ‘misuse’ only because DDA is doing it. And it is ‘justified’ additionally on grounds like saving public land from those for whom it was meant, those conveniently labeled ‘encroachers’ by those denying them their entitlements. Forgive my ‘plannerly’ bias, but I do not see how anything can be a more sweeping infringement of citizens’ rights..."

NHRC had also written to Rangpuri Pahari residents to say, “the concerned authority has taken necessary action in the matter as prayed for by the complainant. Hence, the Commission takes the report on record and closes the case.” After the court judgement in the Sultangarhi case, residents wrote to it to say,

"In our petition we had prayed as follows:

  1. In view of state and central policies, the very intention of clearing the land on which our settlement is located should be investigated.
  2. The material damage caused by this unlawful action should be compensated.
  3. Those who have caused such trauma to so many for no reason should be brought to book.

Apropos our first prayer, far from investigating the intention of clearing the land on which our settlement is located, DDA began constructing on it illegally. In a PIL filed in August 2002 by Delhi Science Forum (WP 4978/2002), the Hon’ble High Court has ruled on 16.09.02 that DDA’s scheme (for 2000 HIG flats) was in violation of its Act and ordered that it be stopped and that an enquiry be made into how such a violation came to pass. Regarding our other prayers, DDA has not compensated material damage caused by the summary demolition in pursuit of its illegal scheme. As far as we know, no action has been taken against those responsible. It does appear that DDA has misled the Commission..." > NHRC Rangpuri Pahari matter4

Residents of Rangpuri Pahari also wrote to DDA Vice Chairman with reference to DDA's reference to them as encroachers in the Sultangarhi case and the Court's directions for DDA's immediate compliance in the Arjun Camp case to say,

"In the matter of Arjun Camp, the court has directed that the residents approach you for clarifications regarding entitlements under the Master Plan. We have no such court direction in our favour. Still, because we have been seeking this clarification from DDA for two years, because our settlement is older than the Master Plan, because we are citizens of Delhi and believe that our entitlements are explicit in the Master Plan for Delhi, because we believe we have demonstrated a commitment to the Master Plan that is at least greater than what DDA has demonstrated, because DDA has called us ‘encroachers’ in court and seemingly abdicated its responsibility by us, and because it is clear that although duty-bound to secure planned development in public interest only in accordance with the Master Plan DDA is defining planned development and its role on its own terms, we think we might be entitled at least to be told what in DDA’s view constitute our citizens’ rights under the Master Plan. We hope you will consider us citizens, not ‘encroachers’, at least for the purpose of this clarification."

The greatest leverage derived from the court cases for raising the issue of entitlements came from the Public Notice precipitated by the Sultangarhi case. All citizens' groups who had been objecting to the scheme reiterated their objections and wrote to various agencies of Central and Delhi government to request their response. More than 1700 families also objected individually. All objections were squarely within the ambit of infringement of specific Plan entitlements.


October 2002 - March 2003: Defiant state

In a most dismal display of all-round indifference construction on the site continued as before. Being closest to the site it was the residents of Rangpuri Pahari who monitored [non] compliance of court orders, repeatedly calling the police, lodging complaints and informing others. In the Arjun Camp matter also, DDA had not provided clarification on entitlements despite court orders. Rangpuri Pahari residents continued to assist Arjun Camp residents in resisting repeated demolition attempts and by connecting the two cases of non-compliance in letters, police complaints, etc.

In November Union Urban Development Minister announced in-situ housing for Delhi slum dwellers on lines of Mumbai, also being recommended by Delhi government and illegal and amounting to double profiteering in view of Delhi's land policy. Residents of Rangpuri Pahari wrote to ask for adaptation of the approach to conform to the Master Plan so as to enhance rather than downsize entitlements and to seek assurance against demolitions till a strategy had been finalised and also till questions raised in response to Public Notice and in the Arjun Camp cases had been settled. At the end of November Delhi High Court quashed the slum resettlement policy and Rangpuri Pahari residents began to solicit intervention of political leaders to secure response to their letter to the Minister. On 27.01.2003 they forcefully raised the issue of their entitlements at the hearing of responses to the Public Notice and in March they objected in response to a Public Notice for land acquisition for resettlement in the same effort.

In November 2002 residents had complained against start of construction of boundary wall around Sultangarhi Tomb while due process on Public Notice had not been completed. In the hearing of objections on 27.01.2003 DDA Commissioner Planning told them that a park was being developed there also for their use. In March residents wrote to request a suitable space consistent with the Plan for a small memorial to the father of the Constitution on the occasion of his birth anniversary on 14.04.2003, if possible in the park being developed for them.No one responded.

March 2003: Grass-eating fences

On 27.03.2003 CBI exposed the biggest DDA scam so far. Vice Chairman, Commissioner Planning and Commissioner and Director Land - the offices with which residents of Rangpuri Pahari had been corresponding since 2000 about implementation of their entitlements - were charged of subversion of the Plan for illegal gratification.

While CBI's findings had vindicated the stand of Rangpuri Pahari residents, who had long been pointing to certainty of corruption at Master Plan minding levels in DDA, media attention remained riveted on sleaze and skirted imperatives for restoring what people had lost. Citizens tried to place the DDA scam in a different perspective in their celebration of the Constitution and democracy5 on 14.04.2003 and, with a new set of officers in DDA, a statement of support6 was also issued.

The significance of CBI's findings in an entitlements perspective, however, seemed lost on all others, especially DDA. Late on 25.04.2003 (Friday) night DDA engineers were stopped by Rangpuri Pahari residents from removing illegally excavated boulders from the site. On the residents' insistence the Police Station did impound three trucks and a JCB but these were released next day despite formal complaints / requests to hold them till the matter had been taken up with the authorities. On 02.05.2003 news papers reported Union Tourism and Culture Minister's plans to develop studios for young artists near Sultangarhi Tomb out of concern for civic life, youth, etc, even as the request arising from identical concerns for a small space for a memorial to the father of the Constitution had elicited no response. On 26.05.2003 DDA brought out a tender notice for four tube wells near Sultangarhi. In line with CGWA notice, Residents of Rangpuri Pahari filed information in the Police station of this tender and of wells already dug. They also sought reports on previous complaints about illegal ground water withdrawal, removal of illegally excavated material, construction of wall, etc.

Greater evidence of the fact of the CBI expose not having changed anything in any way for citizens' aggrieved by corruption in DDA was demonstrated in the matter of Arjun Camp. On one hand it was reported that Sahara Restaurant, the case in which a former judge was implicated in the CBI expose, occupied a Janta housing site and, on the other, the service providers' settlements of Rajiv Gandhi Camp and Arjun Camp, for which claim had been staked to in the Arjun Camp cases, were summarily demolished. On 24.05.2003 Rangpuri Pahari residents wrote to Union Urban Development Minister in view of recent developments in continuation of their letter of November 2002 to again request written assurance of no demolitions and permission for interim re-instatement of demolished settlements in view of the question of entitlements not having been settled. As before, they solicited intervention of others for securing a response to their letter.

Residents of Rajiv Gandhi Camp had also been trying to engage the Chief Minister on the entitlements' issue in view of her recent slum-related activities and those of Arjun Camp and Rangpuri Pahari had been doing so before, including repeatedly writing to her to respond to the Public Notice. Residents of Rangpuri Pahari had also approached the Congress President at a public function to solicit her intervention and her office had written to the CM's office in their matter in February. On 28.05.2003, following reports of CM's idea of a white paper on slums based on ideas that sounded the same as those announced by Union Urban Development Minister in November 2002, an appointment was secured to solicit the intervention of the leader of the opposition in face of denial of entitlements by both Delhi and Central government. > Rajiv Gandhi Camp Chronicle7

On 02.06.2003 Rangpuri Pahari residents wrote to DDA Vice Chairman to request an appointment in view of recent developments. Meanwhile, the big contractor firms on the site to the west were using their sheds to house workers from other project sites and workers were also present on the site around Sultangarhi Tomb to the east. Rumours of demolition, readily fanned amidst election-year politics in the context of Arjun Camp having been demolished in sub-judice matter even after the Sahara expose, had already created a climate of uncertainty, which transformed into one of panic following extensive reportage of DDA Urban Heritage Foundation's press note of 05.06.2003 about Sultangarhi scheme8. The reports dwelt on facelift for the Tomb. Some also mentioned housing colonies on either side and all mentioned the wall already built - the same against which residents have been lodging complaints since November for disregard of court orders and which places their settlement in the compound of the Tomb.

On 07.06.2003 residents of Rangpuri Pahari wrote to Secretary MoUD with copy to the Minister in continuation of previous letters to the Minister. They asked for the landuse change notification of the area, the report of the court-ordered inquiry and the report of the Board that scrutinized more than 1700 objections filed in response to the Public Notice. They asked for basis of work on the Sultangarhi project since November in defiance of court orders, for legal basis of delineation of precincts without benefit of Zonal Plan as required by the Master Plan, and details of process followed for public comment in that alternative basis. The letter was also forwarded to the Congress President and to former Prime Minister VP Singh seeking their intervention for securing a response.


  • 1. source: http://skel.architexturez.net/RP02s.avi
  • 2. Sultangarhi Case
    On World Environment Day the Sultangarhi scheme, an international heritage centre and about 2000 high income flats in the green belt in the ridge area duly notified for its critical ground water regime, was re-announced... in disregard of Delhi Master Plan and Delhi Development Act, of orders of Delhi High Court, of public opinion expressed through due process of Public Notice by over 1700 families amongst many more whose entitlements to land and water are threatened, of opinion of experts concerned about consequences for the city, of statutory / constitutional mandates of several agencies – in short, of most democratic processes meant to ensure lawful public interest prevails over vested interests.

  • 3. source: http://skel.architexturez.net/SP_AC.htm
  • 4. source: http://skel.architexturez.net/mpisg/Case_HR.htm
  • 5. Celebrating the Constitution and democracy
    Corruption in DDA that we have been pointing to for long has been caught. Since DDA has only one mandate, development according to Master Plan, this is about subversion of planned development. Since planned development protects Delhi and everyday rights of its citizens this is about harm done and being done to all. This is about usurping a tenth of Delhi’s land by denying citizens their entitlements and about as much more in other ways to make for a range of problems including a serious water crisis. 

  • 6. source: http://skel.architexturez.net/030414S.htm
  • 7. source: http://skel.architexturez.net/mpisg/SP_RGC.htm
  • 8. DDA gives facelift to Sultan Garhi tomb
    By Our Staff Reporter 

    NEW DELHI JUNE 5. The Sultan Garhi Tomb built by Iltumish in 1231 has been given a complete facelift by the Delhi Urban Heritage Foundation which had prepared an Urban Design Plan with the focus on environmental improvement and regeneration of the area.

    A press note issued by Delhi Development Authority, whose Chief Architect is Member-Secretary of the Foundation, states that DDA has constructed the boundary wall with finished random rubble hand chiseled quartzite stone columns.

    http://hindu.com/thehindu/2003/06/06/stories/2003060606350400.htm (Retrieved 20th July, 2013)