Citizens’ participation through Public Notice

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner / 26.06.2003

An account of the discussion series on 'Delhi Master Plan 2021 – Gearing up for citizens' participation'

14 April 2003 to 23 June 2003, India International Centre, New Delhi

Delhi Master Plan is a document of citizens’ entitlements in benefits of planned development to ensure well-being of the city’s past, present and future. To uphold, safeguard and secure citizens’ entitlements is the constitutional responsibility of the state and civic responsibility of others engaging in development. To disregard, undermine or disparage a document of citizens’ entitlements is unconstitutional and irresponsible. In the last 10-15 years, unfortunately, these fundamental facts have been lost sight of and vested interests rather than Master Plan have guided land use in the city. This has spawned an iceberg whose tip was exposed by CBI earlier this year. It has also spawned a Master Plan revision that, by all accounts, places citizens’ entitlements and the city’s well being at risk to ‘legitimise’ an extraordinary land scam on maybe a tenth of Delhi.

It was in this context that I had suggested a series of discussions to demystify Plan entitlements and Public Notice process for greater citizens’ awareness in time for the Public Notice for Delhi Master Plan 2021, then expected in June 2003. The intention was also to try and create confidence in the Plan and a comfort zone for groups of citizens (owners of the Plan) and young professionals (its future professional custodians) to come together to forge alliances for effective participation not only during the 90-days' Public Notice but also for Plan minding till 2021. The Public Notice seems to have been delayed, which made the series ‘pre-mature’. But since the delay was very likely on account of the CBI expose having implicated DDA Commissioner Planning among others, it also made the series uniquely serious. The proceedings of the series are being compiled by Young Professionals' Resource Initiative, which has crystallized in the course of the series and is a significant achievement. The following is just a personal account.

Three of the ten discussions in the series were devoted mainly to the Public Notice process.

  • The two start-up sessions1 dwelt on demystifying DMP-2021 to explain why several Plan entitlements seem at risk of downsizing and why citizens’ must effectively mind entitlements at the Public Notice stage.
  • In May Public Notice was issued for land use change in Idgah2 to industrial with leave to set up a slaughter house. The discussion on 02.06.03 was devoted to this and about 70 responses filed, another achievement of the series.

Seven discussions were on specific issues – concerns that citizens’ groups brought to the series from time to time. In each of these, entitlements and risks thereto, prior leverages and possibilities for further engagement were discussed.

Two discussions were on issues that bother non-poor citizens.

  • Non-residential use in residential areas, which is limited by the Plan premise of residential areas free from other uses save for local facility and by Mixed Land Use (MLU) regulations and hierarchy norms governing facilities. These provisions are at risk from prolonged neglect, a proposal for relaxing MLU regulations, obfuscation of levels of Plans to skirt hierarchy norms and regularisation becoming election issue. Leverages are objection in response to MLU Public Notice3 and objection to approval without disposal4, Green Park Extn SLP against misuse of residential premises for commerce and MPISG PIL against up-market misuse of local commercial facilities, MPISG objections to land use change for institutional use and MPISG engagement on misuse of school sites in violation of hierarchy norms, etc. Possibilities for engagement discussed related to specific suggestions for court matters and general effort to oppose up-market commercialization of city space. This was a fruitful session, with involvement of RWAs, market associations and professionals.
  • Parking. which is affected by the Plan's parking standards (that did not / could not have anticipated extent/nature of vehicle ownership) and development norms that indirectly limit demand for parking space. The latter are at risk from regularization moves, liberalization of property transfer / up-marketing by conversion to freehold5 and penchant and PIL for solutions without regard to cause of problem6. Leverages are MPISG engagements on traffic/parking implications of violation of hierarchy norms for facilities (including in PIL). Possibities lie in taking up parking norms/options alongside demand limitation issues, especially pointing out conflict between demands for parking solutions and for all manners of regularisation of the causes of parking problems. No specific suggestions for engagement were forthcoming at this session.

Two discussions directly concerned the non-rich.

  • Hawking, for which adequate statutory solution exists in Plan provisions, seriously at risk from the NGO-driven drifting policy discourse7 stoutly denying their existence. Some leverage is provided by efforts since 2001 of Vasant Kunj Rehri Patri Vyapari Ekta Manch and MPISG PIL in which provisions and their non-implementation have been admitted and a pilot project promised on affidavit. Further risk to Plan provisions is suggested by continuing non-implementation and the view, expressed also at the meeting by a professor of Planning engaged also on a state-funded hawking study in support of NGO-driven policy initiatives, that it is improper to be critical of reputed NGOs and to harp on Plan implementation and more appropriate to help DDA with constructive ideas. Fortunately, this view did not find any support amongst those present. Hawker groups and young planners struck alliances to pursue implementation of Plan provisions. Others (non-hawkers) also supported the Plan solution and a sympathetic view of hawkers as victims of non-implementation. Mahanagar Asangathit Mazdur Union, having recently modified its charter to offer assistance to Vasant Kunj's hawkers, offered its platform. This was another promising session.
  • Slums, for which adequate statutory solution exists in Plan provisions for low-income housing, at grave risk from vested interests in profiteering on public land, starkly evident in general in illegal inequitable and unsustainable housing development - both for poor and non-poor - going on and in particular by experiences of engagement via executive, judicial and political options in three MPISG cases - Rangpuri Pahari8, Arjun Camp9 and Rajiv Gandhi Camp10, respectively. Citizens’ groups and the few NGOs present shared the concern about entitlements being disregarded in state and civil society discourse due to corruption and vested interests. On specific cases professional support was volunteered / promised. In general greater awareness to facilitate engagement in an entitlements’ perspective by genuine interest groups was suggested and support for this was volunteered, especially, by Jhuggi Jhompri Ekta Manch, which also modified in this light the memorandum it presented to PMO the following week.This was a very promising session and in the concluding session on 23.06.03 Mahanagar Asangathit Mazdur Union volunteered to organise a follow-up meeting in Narela.

Three discussions were on matters that directly concern all and the city's past, present and future.

  • Heritage, protection and management of which is a fundamental Plan premise that has guided the overall land use plan and is detailed out in provisions governing statutory priorities, requiring delineation of management areas by due process in Zonal Plans, etc. These are at risk from projectised interventions un-connected to Plan priorities and from talk of dispensing with Zonal Plans via an Act amendment. Minor leverages are Mahipalpur village’s engagement apropos priorities and MPISG engagement on Sultangarhi Tomb apropos Zonal Plan responsibilities. Possibilities for using statutory basis of the Plan for holistic heritage interventions that resolve rather than exacerbate conflicts were suggested. However, most of those present found the thrust on staying with the ‘law’ regressive and had other ideas, mainly for encroachment removal through political intervention or PIL in particular cases, for community involvement by training them as guides or for open-air theatre near monuments, etc, and for legislation. These could not be connected to the Plan or to the Public Notice focus. A few professionals had ideas for pursuing Plan related suggestions.
  • Water in particular and carrying-capacity in general being a core concern of the Plan, leading to provisions for regional dispersal / green belt to contain overall population size, limits on urbanization in water constrained directions, protection of ridge-river system and area level norms for demand limitation. These are all at grave risk from mindless unplanned development and commercialization of city space as well as from red herring diversionary discourse on alternatives like rainwater harvesting, Sonia Vihar, dual water supply systems, bottled water, etc, all of which can only supplement and not supplant carrying-capacity based Plan development. The Sultangarhi case11, with a full range of engagement to connect the city’s water crisis to subversion of all safeguard provisions in the Plan, was presented. On suggestion of some present, a visit to Sultangarhi took place on 15.06.02.
  • Metro, which instead of being a transport utility is poised to become the key determinant of city form12 without adequate consideration of implications. The Plan provides for a mass transportation system, but not for the immense amount of property development and real estate playing that is becoming part and parcel of the metro, nor for the grandiose manner of its development in disregard of law through, say, exclusion of hawkers at stations or construction of an icon-class metro depot on the riverbed. With reference to two cases of apprehensions / problems on account of metro development, the general ‘discomfort’ about land use decisions being driven by metro without transparency or due process13 was discussed. Suggestions were made for the specific cases in context of need for assessments to be de-linked from the hype.

Through these seven discussions and the Idgah Public Notice all four core areas of space allocations (housing, industry, commerce, facilities) and the two facets of time continuum (heritage and carrying-capacity) that are fundamental to long term land use planning were touched upon.

By way of tangible achievements, the series has led to about 70 responses to Idgah Public Notice, a visit to the illegal scheme in green belt / ridge-river triangle near Sultangarhi Tomb, and alliances between citizens' groups and young professionals, including with some further work, in cases of Green Park Extn, Maharani Bagh hawkers and Zakir Nagar. Other alliances may also materialize, with citizens' groups having sought and young professionals having expressed intent to provide Plan inputs in cases of Nehru Place hawkers, Giri Nagar, Yusuf Sarai, Tis Hazari and Garia Lohars and professionals having offered and citizens' groups having agreed to consider the same for cases in Gulmohar Park, Jangpura and Asian Games Village. Interest in placing the perspective of the Master Plan in the discourse has been expressed by heritage professionals and by those engaging on water issues. Synergy possibilities on commercial use have arisen from inter-connected interests of RWAs, market associations and hawkers. Groups from slums have committed themselves to pursuing Plan entitlements. The Young Professionals' Resource Initiative has started. Some degree of confidence in / ownership of the Plan in over 250 people who came for at least one discussion seems to have been created, which could grow into the will to mind it in self-interest. Follow-up, of course, is of the essence and will determine whether these small achievements will grow or wither away. 

  • 1. Delhi Master Plan 2021 discussion series (Second page)
  • 2. 2003 05 Idgah Public Notice
    for change of land use from residential to extensive industrial and slaughter house in Walled City
  • 3. Sub: OBJECTIONS / SUGGESTIONS in response to DDA’s Public Notice re modification to Master Plan to permit specified commercial uses in residential areas
  • 4. Sub: DDA clearance of proposal re mixed land use: Objection
  • 5. 2003 05 freehold
  • 6. Traffic in residential areas – News reports, PIL and planning issues
  • 7. Hawking Hawkers: How high-profile policy dialogues can lead to downsizing of citizens’ statutory entitlements
    In February 2001 I was appointed planning consultant by a group of over 350 hawkers to assist their efforts to secure implementation of statutory Master Plan provisions for space for hawkers in markets, etc. In mid-2001 our simple but well-progressing efforts were derailed in a rude encounter with a high-profile policy dialogue precipitated by premier NGOs and engaging the highest levels in government and premised on the assumption that Master Plan provisions for hawkers did not exist!
  • 8. Right housing Rights: Rangpuri Pahari Chronicle
    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.
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  • 11. 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.
  • 12. source:
  • 13. source: