In October 1999 newspapers reported that at the seminar that made recommendations for new Plan LG had ‘conceded the concept of NCR had failed’ and ‘instead’ mooted a proposal for three new modern cities as counter-magnets. I wrote to remind that a proposal to develop five existing (not three new) cities as counter-magnets was mooted, endorsed and approved a decade ago – a study by SPA for NCRPB had identified them and made proposals in 1987, Sarkaria Committee had endorsed these in 1989, NCRPB had approved in 1991 20 cr for each in 8th FYP – and to ask about grounds for optimism without implementation failure assessment and license to say ‘oops’ without accountability.
In June 2000, alarmed by NGO interventions and World Bank ‘studies’, I had written to say “if such ‘informal alternatives’ actually come about entirely independently of the ‘formal’ master plan and have to be ‘incorporated’ into it (on account of various pressure groups) at a later date, we’ll end up with a very delayed and rather patchy master plan”. I had requested DDA to keep citizens informed about progress on revision and allow access to seminar reports, etc, and also keep a window open for views of those not on its working groups at stages of defining problems, developing a vision, setting and prioritising strategic objectives, and identifying necessary actions. I received then from Mr B.K.Jain Dir (Plg) MPD-2021 a letter No. F2(1)MPD-21/99/MPPR-I/D-143 dated 14.06.2000 saying:
“The views expressed by you have been put up to the Hon’ble LG for perusal. The interest shown by you for the MPD-2021 is appreciable and we also look forward to have your views in future also for the same. It will be our pleasure to solicit your involvement in the process as per the need in the Plan making exercise.”
By the end of 2000, however, an entirely uncalled for anti-Plan consensus had grown in civil society, abetted by the very interventions that had alarmed me enough to write to DDA in June.
Through 2001 the contrast between ‘fate’, on one hand, of engagements by several citizens’ groups (primary stakeholders) to whom I am planner consultant / adviser to secure and safeguard their Plan entitlements and ensure accountability in Plan revision and, on the other, pseudo-participatory discourse in Plan revision seminars, besides ‘policy dialogue’ and ‘bhagidari’ in disregard of the Plan, brought into focus what I consider grave threats to the paradigm of holistically considered long-term planned development in public interest. In desperation, in February 2002 I sent DDA Commissioner Planning and ‘representatives’ of other groups ‘participating’ in the discourse, a suggestion for a framework for their participation. At an ITPI seminar all these confirmed receipt of my suggestion and conceded need for such framework, but the discourse continued to drift. I am enclosing at Annex-1 that suggestion, as a hypothetical frame of reference to assess validity of what seems poised to pass into history as participatory consensus building on arguably unconstitutional Master Plan ‘guidelines’.
In February 2003 I received from DDA Monitoring Wing a letter in reply to one I had written MoUD summarizing clarifications sought about, in effect, accountability on entitlements in ongoing revision. This indicated that Plan revision was not based on planning data, mandatory under the Plan and Act, an expected for reasons of accountability in view of land policy. I had written to say clarification of ‘alternative’ basis of Plan revision is necessary to establish legality. This is at Annex-2.
During April-June 2003 a discussion series was held at my instance for gearing-up for Public Notice to ‘mind’ entitlements. Now, instead of inviting objections and suggestions through due process of Public Notice on a draft Plan prepared by due process, comments and suggestions have been solicited, almost informally, on some ‘recommendations’ of 1999 re-announced as ‘guidelines’ in 2003, aided only by irresponsible media remarks of some ‘experts’ whose ‘involvement’ on Plan issues during 1999-2000 reflects lack of expertise and whose reasons to comment on unconstitutional ‘guidelines’ can have nothing to do with lawful Plan revision in public interest.
In a letter of 14 July I had written to say, “I am fully aware that mainstream contemporary urban development thought …is premised on ‘dynamic planning’ rather than holistic long-term land-use budgeting through the Master Plan. I am unable to locate any rigorous critique of the latter or justification of the former… I do regret that the discourse has driven itself not only to mediocrity by not leaving space for professional ‘dissent’ but also to becoming undemocratic by failing to privilege citizens seeking their lawful Master Plan entitlements over others in ‘civil society’ advocating their dynamic planning ideas unhampered even by checks on their competence or accountability.”
That, of course is a personal opinion. But there is nothing personal about the view that 40 years of public land acquisition for Delhi Master Plan make its modification a task of historic responsibility and transparency and adequacy of process is in order even if it were not required by law, which it is, and even if it had not been ‘requested’, which it has been.