As Delhi government is planning to announce a plan for regularising 917 colonies, we look at what regularisation actually means and how people forced to live a life of drudgery in these unauthorised would stand to gain from it...

Like most residents of the 917 unauthorised colonies which are being regularised, Mohan Singh, a resident of Ali Vihar in South Delhi, is confused as to what the notification would actually mean. His colony already has cemented roads and power supply, but no water or sewerage connection yet.

“The plot size is generally 25 or 50 square yards and the lanes are only 10 to 15 feet wide which makes it difficult for vehicles to enter. So many people park on the main roads outside, while some have even their own parking on the ground floor.”

With the colony not having any green areas for children to play in or open space for school or health facility, and half the community hall already being used for a food programme, qualitatively the life of the residents is not expected to improve much, he admits.

In fact, while politicians in Delhi have made their crores by dealing in properties in such colonies, most now do not even live in them. With vertical growth and increase in population, these colonies now suffer from frequent squabbles and fights over parking and water as also acute traffic congestion.

The only glimmer of hope which regularisation provides to the likes of Mr.Singh is of assured water and sewerage supply and an end to the uncertainty over the status of the colony.

Yes, the property rates are also expected to go up following regularisation. This also means more purchasing power in the hands of the residents.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit insists that a lot of hard work has gone into paving the path for regularisation of these colonies. For her it was important to provide a life of certainty to the residents of these colonies as also those which have come up on government land and are next in line to be regularised.

Her logic is simple: “These colonies have been around for many years, the people have spent their hard earned money on the housing and it is impractical to even think of removing them. So might as well regularise them, provide the people with all basic civic amenities and remove the uncertainty of demolition and sealing from their lives.”

Guidelines flouted?

Ms. Dikshit insists that in a fortnight she would announce a plan for regularising the 47 colonies that have come up on land belonging to the Archaeological Survey of India and 157 that have come up on Ridge and forest land.

Though the guidelines for regularisation had specified that colonies violating the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, or coming up on notified areas or reserved forest areas will not be considered for regularisation, the Delhi Government wants all of them regularised.

It also relaxed the norms for regularisation which stated that colonies must have been in existence as per the aerial survey of March 31, 2002, and should have possessed built up area of 50 per cent by March 31, 2007, by including a clause permitting mere existence by 2007 to be enough for regularisation.

Legal wrangle

Changing the goal post, the Urban Development Department has gone ahead and evaluated the 1,639 colonies on the basis of a 2008-09 survey by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The opposition BJP insists this is in gross violation of the guidelines.

Ms. Dikshit insisted that this time the Delhi Government has worked meticulously to ensure that legal wrangles did not come in the way of regularisation.

As per senior advocate Meera Bhatia, who had contested the case of rights activist H. D. Shourie in the matter in High Court: “In the case of Common Cause versus Union of India, there was an application filed by the Government that they should be allowed to provide sewerage, water, electricity and other facilities in the unauthorised colonies and the court had permitted them in 1998. There was no comment on regularisation of unauthorised colonies.”

In the Delhi Budget in May this year, Ms. Dikshit had stated that her Government has already spent Rs.2,597 crore till March 2012 for providing civic services in these unauthorised colonies and proposed to spend another Rs.631 crore in the current financial year.

The Delhi Government would be approaching the Delhi High Court with these facts on September 6. The court had asked it to respond to a petition filed by an architect and town planner who had questioned the Centre, the Delhi Government and the Delhi Development Authority’s power to regularise the unauthorised colonies.

Considering that the Government is already providing civic amenities like water, power, roads and sewerage in unauthorised colonies, many now wonder how regularisation would make a difference to the lives of people there.

Kailash Khurana, a resident of Rani Ganj, which was regularised when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, insists that now the colony boasts clean roads and drains, water and electricity supply and a sewerage system.

“At that time, there were also open spaces in the colonies which were utilised for providing common services like post offices, dispensaries and schools.”

Maps still not passed

But these regularised unauthorised colonies still suffer from certain lacunae. “If a person wants to construct a house there, he still cannot do so. This is because sub-division of plots is not allowed post the cut-off date of 1986. So if the family size has grown, the plot size has reduced, a house or floor cannot be constructed on it with the approval of the civic body,” said Mukesh Sharma, Parliamentary Secretary to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

With the maps and relevant papers not complete, residents of such colonies are also not able to avail of finance from banks or financial institutions for construction or purchase of property. On the other hand, in many of the cases the houses have already been constructed and so the residents do not feel the need for maps. They also avoid permissions when they are constructing more than the permissible limit.

Prone to disasters

Former MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said these colonies also suffer from the issue of safety of the structures. “As the maps are not passed, the residents carry out constructions in haste after bribing the councillors, junior engineers of civic body, Revenue Department staff and Delhi Police personnel. Due to this the quality of construction suffers and the buildings are weak and prone to collapse.”

The senior Nationalist Congress Party leader charged that there is so much money involved in such “organised extortion” that the layout plans of even 612 colonies regularised by Ms. Gandhi in the 1970s have not been framed thus far.

Though by getting the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Bill, 2011, passed by Parliament on November 15, 2011, the Union Urban Development Minister had ensured a three-year moratorium on any punitive action such as sealing or demolition against houses and buildings not conforming to the existing Master Plan, the regularisation notification would more than anything else now just assure the residents that they are there to stay.

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