Staff Reporter

All four non-official members walk out from the meeting in protest

Union Ministry accused of bypassing both the Lieutenant-Governor and DDA members"What is the assurance that the scheme would not be extended later to lower income group (LIG) and economically weaker section (EWS) flats?''

NEW DELHI: The Union Urban Development Ministry's decision to go in for auction of Delhi Development Authority's middle-income group and higher-income group flats in the Capital by doing away with the policy of allotment kicked up a storm at the DDA meeting on Wednesday. All four non-official members walked out in protest charging that the decision had undermined the powers of DDA, which is also a policy-making body, as also the authority of the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi who heads it.

As soon as the meeting began, DDA Member Mahabal Mishra, the Congress MLA from Nasirpur, was on his feet. Accusing the Union Ministry of bypassing both the Lieutenant-Governor and the DDA members in taking this all-important decision, he said: "The decision has put a question mark on DDA. If the Government does not consider it worthy of taking policy decisions, then it should be disbanded forthright. But bypassing it like this will not be tolerated.''

Congress Councillor Virender Kasana also opposed the move on the ground that it would make the MIG and HIG flats in the Capital prohibitively expensive. "Flats which are costing Rs.20 lakhs now would cost about Rs. 60 lakhs if they are sold through auction. This would only help the rich. And what is the assurance that the scheme would not be extended later to lower income group (LIG) and economically weaker section (EWS) flats?''

Describing the move to auction MIG and HIG flats as anti-people, all the agitated members -- who also included Congress MLA Jile Singh Chauhan and BJP MLA Mange Ram Garg -- staged a walkout.

As soon as they moved out of the meeting, State Chief Secretary R. Narayanswami and Lieutenant-Governor's Secretary D. S. Negi rushed to pacify them. Thereafter a meeting was convened between Lieutenant-Governor B. L. Joshi and the four members, who insisted that their objection be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

The members opposed the idea of auctioning of flats and urged Mr. Joshi to inform Union Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy of their feelings. Subsequently Mr Joshi spoke to Mr. Reddy and narrated the sequence of events.

It was agreed then that the Minister would meet the DDA members and hear them out and the agitated members returned to the proceedings. However, they said they would meet the Minister only after his deputy Ajay Maken, who is abroad, returns to Delhi.

They said the Minister had in all probability been misled over the issue by some officials and they would also like to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to apprise her of their point of view.

While the members were agitated over the move, some DDA officials sought to justify the decision to auction flats on the ground that it is primarily the rich, the bureaucrats and the politicians who corner most of these flats. "Many of these members had applied for several flats in the Festival Housing Scheme-2004 even though they already possess several properties. And now they are clamouring about proper verification of eligibility clauses as they know manipulating the verifiers is very easy,'' said an official.

Wondering who does not want a Rs.60-lakh flat for Rs.20 lakhs, officials said the need of the hour was to use the extra money obtained through the auction route more effectively by using it to serve the poor and the needy.