The Supreme Court judgment for industries in Delhi unequivocally upholds Delhi Master Plan provisions and processes. Whatever the city does with this judgment will affect the statutory framework for its planned development and through it the course of its history. Indifference and frivolousness are equally unaffordable.

In plannerly advising I do, August 2004 has been mostly full of industry matters. I saw in the judgment of 07.05.04 unexpected support for DMP amidst its abandonment for patently unviable World Bank vision being enthusiastically and illegally pursued in drift to all-round bankruptcy. There was also NCMP (candy-floss with 100% discount on truthfulness, but usable to extent of adding NCMP-also-says-so to any side of any argument). So I had launched a plannerly offensive to posit that the judgment is near-perfect, calling for viewing its deadlines not for closure but for implementing DMP solutions for industries in view of DMP basis and also of NCMP.

In late-July a national level Federation got in touch and the bolder argument that closure directions do not apply to most units became launch-able. Since its affiliates did not seem to me court-safe (they had been actively pursuing regularization), I advised they pitch for lawful-compliance through discourse and clarification-seeking. They wrote letters and on 22.08.04 hosted a colloquium at which a Left MP, two unions, SPA faculty, Supreme Court lawyers, residents with the matter in SC against commercial misuse broadly concurred on lawful-compliance. A Delhi Federation got in touch through an association engaging, including by response to Parliamentary Committee notice, as 100% industrial area, and doing other responsible things. The court option opened up and I spent most of last week of August working on and hoping for their petition to be filed by 1-2 September. Smaller groups also got in touch and I have been suggesting to them specific points on which to seek clarification for broad-range synergy. Commissioner of Industries called me for a meeting on 20.08.04 and I got the impression that a substantive demand for lawful-compliance might also be useful for any one in government inclined to pursue a course other than that charted by World Bank study (for abrupt closure of most city-economy by distorting mandatory land use allocations for various activities, inclusive of Great Terrain Robbery of 2000-3000 Ha of planned industrial space).

Basically I was advising all to draw strength from the judgment upholding DMP to modify the regularization demand to one for incorporation in the planning framework by due process of law, which bridges across to DMP implementation. I also suggested to all that they approach Left parties for support – not because I hold Lefties in high esteem (on the contrary, since they rubber-stamp all obnoxious unplannerly ideas that Congress-BJP promote), but because they seem to hold me in low esteem and someone else has to point out to them that plannerly premise of socialization of land and regulating use rather than ownership is more or less on their original manifesto and they are expected to take longer term perspectives with which quick-fix regularization demands are inconsistent. Also they are concerned about industry, supposedly minding NCMP and, for a change, getting to be on television. And, in day-dreams of all doing what they are meant to, I dream of Left parties doing something about NGOs-VPSingh nexus becoming the pseudo-dissent on urban issues and Left parties resolving the industries imbroglio on behalf of workers so that owners become indebted and all live somewhat more happily ever after.

At the colloquium on 22.08.04 Mr Abani Ray showed up and was made chairperson. He might have had second thoughts about DMP, about which he was typically dismissive, because he suggested afterwards to me some note-writing. The Federation proposed a committee under me to advise it in future, but it seemed to think letters that had gone and MP who had come would do to tide its affiliates over the crisis. The Delhi Federation approached Mr A B Bardhan (who had also been typically dismissive about DMP and suggested note-writing to me in early August) and on 30th I learned they were being taken by his party to meet the Minister the next day. Their meeting seems to have been full of pep, but their draft petition was too bland and I spent all night working on it to beat the meeting fallout, too late. On 1st September newspapers reported centre-state decision to file affidavit for extension of industries’ closure deadline to be able to do “scientific survey”. That somehow made pursuit of lawful options seem foolhardy, besides redundant, to the association and it decided not to file. On 2nd they came over, I think to say sorry, and proposed I be their adviser in future. On 1st other associations had also come over. The “scientific-survey” / regularization relief, even if granted, cannot benefit most and they are aware of that.

As planner I have no sympathy for industry owners since not only have they been anti-DMP they are now sinking it when they could be saving it. But their panic, seen up close, is making me go soft and for once I am not defensive about that. What is going on is frightening. All those I have met have said they never knew what I am saying, even as it is there for all to read in DMP since 1990 in English and in my web-posts since 2002 in Planglish, in letters collected in office files in offices they have all been visiting, in letters sent to many of those outside government that they are counting on, etc. I was told about senior planners (including the one who has lately questioned my credibility in his defense of a building award) who had told them strange stories from DMP and of discrediting of plan and planner by VP-NGO lot, to which a note on industries (independently re-written in lucid English from prose in Planglish) was presented last year on request, to which the NGOs had promptly reacted in their anti-Plan print-propaganda with some peculiar statistical analysis of DMP provisions for industries that they had till then insisted did not exist. I was also told some units were being offered some back-dated challans, which I know from experiences of hawker and slum clients is typical ploy to crack support for law in context of patently illegal cut-off-date based initiatives.

One of the errors I have made is to assume that Left parties would be inclined at least to see opportunity for long-term gains for workers in short-term response to owners. They are now lending support to industry owners (not workers) wanting to break the law even when the law provides for sensible solutions that at least some owners are inclined to pursue, a line that seems to me to run away from where I understand Left is meant to march to. They have any way been lending, even when owners were not bothering to approach them, support to the regularization demand regardless of the facts that it is no solution and is delaying to point of denial the statutory solution, that it will not survive Public Notice for DMP modification even if it is somehow pushed through court, and that it is not even quite “populist” (the judgment clarifies that it applied always to only 15000 out of over 100000 units, and that too on basis of a survey “neither scientific, nor precise nor reliable”).

I can visualize three likely scenarios about what the Supreme Court might do to the plea for time for “scientific survey” (if it is filed, since someone called today to say there is some disagreement). It might simply reject it. It might simply allow it. It might add or modify directions (in either, especially the latter, case). In any case, an inertial “scientific survey” affidavit in a 5-year-long bluff will do nothing to change in the courtroom either the interpretation of law or the perception of industry (the two main, if not only, areas calling for improvement in this matter). It could well lead (in third scenario) to dilution of the opportunity that the judgment, as it is, does provide for solutions if industries align on the side of the court and start calling the bluff. (Some NGOs seem also to have sought to be impleaded today and from those, with apologies to exceptions, only obfuscation is expected in Delhi).

I find very worrying the support for regularization (or any agenda-pushing for that matter) going on even after comprehensive rejection by Supreme Court. It is bad enough that politics and professions have left policy debate to courts, it is bizarre that court verdicts are not accepted till they match some so-called consensus of dubious origin. This consensus-of-dubious-origin on regularization (rather, mere promise of that moon) is now presuming to redefine fundamentals of my profession. The “scientific survey” is reportedly going to collect stakeholder views to place in court and there is also a news report titled “Govt works out urban plan” that says Delhi government has received and is studying aerial photographs of 2002 and will send to MoUD recommendations for regularization based on this study. All this is as non-conforming in terms of DMP as industries in residential areas and is most hazardous. It is serving only to grab 2000-3000 Ha of space after forcing industries to close, adding momentum to an obnoxious paradigm that reduces development responsibility to regularization promise to allow diversion of development resources to willful pursuits. Most significantly, this consensus-of-dubious-origin is trivializing with its frivolous faff a Supreme Court judgment that unequivocally upholds DMP provisions and processes.

Statutory Plans are all that stand between efficient equitable development (howsoever well or poorly set out as statutory framework at any given time) and willful loot of urban resources by what I think are called local capitalist and/or global imperialist forces (unlikely to compare favorably against even the worst Plans in terms of equity and efficiency goals). With those duty-bound to uphold DMP (which has strongest legal standing countrywide) disregarding it with impunity and neither the mainstream planning profession nor Left parties coming to its aid on even the industries issue, it does seem time to write requiems for many things.

But I am not making the wilt-and-whine mistake again. (A news report about workers burning DMP, with picture of an anti-DMP poster, in 2000 had precipitated book-length Planglish that served no purpose other than to confuse planner for author). What is bothering me are the apologetic offers that industries made to me to, well, lay off while authorities, politics and they get on with whatever. I wonder about legitimacy of my advising citizens’ efforts in pursuit of lawful planned development when they are not finding any support from anywhere in this pursuit. I have to again figure out another way to be planner, also in face of moves to de-legitimize my profession altogether (there is news report about licensing for GATS purposes effective from January 2005 and talk of question about 20-year-old restructuring of planning education moving after dismissal in Mumbai High Court to Supreme Court, through a PIL outfit spearheading anti-planning-law initiatives).

If the court allows “scientific survey”, for whatever it is worth I will ask for scope and methodology to be made public with detailed explanation of conformity with statutory DMP processes for monitoring and review. I think it important to remind government that the judgment is based on DMP that government is duty-bound to uphold even if it were not reprimanded party on this count. (“We may note another argument put forth on behalf of Delhi Government that it is not the function and responsibility of the Delhi Government to enforce the Master Plan, it has no powers to enforce it. We are not only surprised but shocked at such a frivolous stand being taken… If it was not the function and responsibility of State Government and the Government had no power, we wonder the reason why the Government filed IA No.1206 seeking extension of time upto March 2004 to relocate the industries. We summarily reject this wholly frivolously submission”. And “we may also deal with, in brief, the submission urged on behalf of Government of India that it is not the implementing agency. One has only to refer to Section 41 of the DD Act which empowers the Central Government to issue directions to DDA for the efficient administration of the DD Act. Why no such direction was issued, there could be no answer. … in the meanwhile, the Government of India, as already noticed above, has changed its stance and under the garb of issuing guidelines for the Master Plan for Delhi - 2021, action against violators of law has come to a standstill for an indefinite period”).

I might also ask that before any collection of stakeholder views to present to court, responses to views already expressed through options like Public Notices u/s.11A for DMP modification, eg, for Idgah and Household Industries, and the one by which Standing Parliamentary Committee had invited views on DDA, and the one by which DDA had invited views on illegally issued DMP2021 guidelines, etc, be disposed off by due process. (My response to Public Notice about household units included suggestion, besides for public debate on government’s overall plan for compliance to decide if it is better than the option of compliance through statutory DMP solution, for responses be placed in court since the Public Notice arises from the court order).

I might even ask to be involved in “scientific survey” on basis of my qualifications and experience in general and engagements in instant case in particular (like I have been asking for the Pushta assessment that was decided upon as part of the clearance decision of 03.01.04, but has not been done though clearance is continuing – the old cultivators’ settlements are targeted now even as they are the only conforming use on riverbed, regardless of all the “representations” made by them and on their behalf and regardless also of additional questions about big-time riverbed shenanigans).

I think all can fret about the bizarre combination of the consensus in favour of willfulness and the collective incapability to cope with anything. That describes anarchy (not kindergarten, since it lacks innocence). It is I know pervasive, but on DMP issues it is grossly illegal, relying mainly on stout denial of existence of statutory solutions amounting to citizens’ settled rights under sovereign law, at risk. DMP solutions for ridge, river, heritage, housing, manufacturing, education, health, livelihood (also in commerce, especially informal) are all at risk, from identical processes. The Supreme Court judgment for industries is a judgment in support of planned development, anathema to freewheeling anarchy. By deciding, after four months of inertia, to seek modification in name of “scientific survey” Delhi government has made clear its preference for anarchy. Can that really be what everybody prefers to DMP? In that case, is there God?