The government wants to convert Delhi into a big bazaar

Sunday, 26 November 2006, 06:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: Hundreds of thousands of traders in the national capital operating their businesses illegally out of residential areas in violation of building byelaws are hoping the next Delhi Master Plan will bail them out of the government's drive to seal such properties.

The urban development ministry, the Delhi government and the civic authorities have told the worried traders that Master Plan 2021, likely to be notified at the end of January 2007, will allow them to permanently operate their businesses in residential areas.

These assurances, however, may not materialise and the traders could be left in the lurch. The Master Plan 2021 will have to stand the scrutiny of law and there will be several citizen groups who in all likelihood will oppose it.

Ironically the government seems to be ignoring the interests of those who don't want residential areas to be treated as trading zones. The hapless citizens have been suffering for the last four-and-a-half decades as successive governments, irrespective of political affiliations, have either preferred to look the other way or bent rules and regulations to accommodate vested interests.

The Delhi Development Authority, governed by the urban development ministry, has so far prepared two master plans for Delhi. The first Master Plan was the blue print of planned urban development in Delhi from 1961 to 1981.

The second Master Plan was supposed to carry the process of urban development forward from 1981 to 2001. The third Master Plan, which is yet to be notified, is supposed to take forward the legacy left by the previous two plans.

And what legacy?

It comprises blatant violation of all land use norms leading to residential areas being used for commercial purposes. Almost every norm of the Master Plan that concerns common people of the city has been violated in both letter and spirit during the last four decades.

The authorities, however, seem to be the least bothered. They are ready to bend the rules backwards to legalise all illegal activities carried out by commercial establishments in residential areas.

This will continue to put additional pressure on the infrastructure in residential areas, many of which face a crunch in parking space.

The continuation of commercial establishments will put a further strain on parking. Commercial units use much more power than the residential units. The power distribution system in many residential areas may not be able to take so much of load any more.

Once the new Master Plan 2021 comes into effect there is every possibility that commercial units will proliferate in residential areas severely affecting the quality of life here.

There can be no expectations from the corrupt officials and political leaders, who have a proven track record of protecting and patronising commercial activities in Delhi's residential areas for the last four decades.

Interestingly, as one looks at the two Master Plans there are not many flaws in them. However, to justify their own acts of omission and commission, the politicians and officials have portrayed the Master Plans as the root evil as if they ignored the ground realties.

They did not. They were formulated by some of the best-known planners of the country.

In the first Master Plan about six percent of the land was allowed for commercial use and in the second Master Plan this figure stood at about four percent. There were always provisions to review the norms to accommodate the fast changing needs of the city. That is why planning norms were even revised in 1981.

But the government's proposal to allow large commercial establishments to operate from most of residential areas under Master Plan 2021 defies any planning logic and completely ignores the aspirations of the large majority of law-abiding citizens who do not run commercial units illegally in residential areas and who want to lead a better and cleaner quality of life.

Source: IANS
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