Regularised, but a lot remains irregular

Sep 01 2012, 10:56 IST
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SummaryThe Delhi government’s move to regularise 900-odd unauthorised colonies across the city would give rise to several infrastructural challenges and will take a long time to bring them up to standards of planned localities

In a matter of days, over 40 lakh residents in the Capital are set to acquire a cartographic and legal footprint of their existence with the Delhi government’s decision to regularise over 900 unauthorised colonies in the city.

A primary campaign promise in the run up to the assembly elections in 2008, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had sworn to regularise more then 1, 600 unauthorised colonies. However, after distributing ‘provisional’ certificates then, the government had made no progress in granting amnesty till now. Last week, the Union urban development ministry approved a list of 917 colonies, which now awaits the final approval of Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna.

Living in such unauthorised colonies came with its set of consequences. One, the locality is not recognised on the official map of the city/district. Two, residents held no title. Three, an unauthorised colony cannot be given or demand ‘regular’ municipal functions provided by the government — water, power, sewerage and roads.

However, in 1998, the Delhi High Court, allowed civic amenities in unauthorised settlements, but with a rider that this does not make them legal in any sense.

All of that is set to change with the notification that seeks to accept them and integrate within the ambit of what is the ‘regular’ settlement.

This move takes away the uncertainty of one’s existence, but it is here that the scheme has problems to encounter, legacy issues to confront, and several challenges to surmount.

There is also a silver lining in all of this. Regularisation could spawn several developments that if guided well, can see a steady supply of housing with the potential to moderate prices.

LINGERING PROBLEM

The unauthorised colonies date back to the ’70s when the city saw increasing numbers of migrants settling here in search of economic opportunities.

The Delhi Development Authority was unable to construct enough affordable housing for them, and that led to the emergence of squatter settlements on government land.

Over the decades they have expanded and have added to the growing number of discrete settlements that define the Capital’s urbanscape.

The current order is not the first attempt by the government at such regularisation. The process has been carried out in stages with number of colonies being declared legal, that have replaced the vacant expanse on the official map.

THE FINE PRINT

PN Pathak, a resident of Pandav Nagar, one of the colonies set to be regularised said, “We no longer have to wear the tag of living in an unauthorised colony. Our block had been given conditional clearance a year ago, and until yesterday the paperwork was still pending. Once the authorisation certificate comes through, life will become easier.”

However, mere declaration of legality does not render a locality legal. There are several processes that follow and they come with riders.

Individual Rights: The residents in the now regularised colony can buy, sell and register their properties only after a declaration to the effect that will grant them ownership rights to their property and the freedom to carry out construction work at these sites. Further, only colonies have been given a legal tag and not individual houses. Every house owner will need to apply to the respective corporation for getting the property registered and for building plans to be approved.

Multi-Ownership: Considering that most of the houses in these colonies are builder flats built on a single plot, there is multi-ownership issue attached to these properties. Presently, there is no policy under which such owners can apply for having their houses regularised. A new policy will have to be framed by the civic agencies and DDA.

Layout Plans: The respective corporations will have to prepare the layout plans wherein the basic facilities and infrastructure that needs to be created would be earmarked.

Infrastructure: The government will have to ensure the creation and maintenance of basic infrastructure such as water supply and sewerage, parks, street lights and garbage disposal.

LARGER IMPACT

Even as clarity on ownership is awaited, the move, bringing at once such a huge number into the mainstream would see much activity on the real estate front, say market watchers. “These colonies have the most affordable housing options of all available housing stock, and offer an opportunity to a large migrant population in Delhi to fulfill their dream of owning a house here. With the regularisation move, that dream has been given further impetus and will prompt many builders to assemble and redevelop the structures to further lure this population segment,” said Santhosh Kumar, CEO – Operations, Jones Lang LaSalle India.

Even as this appears to be an enticing prospect, Kumar added that it would remain the domain of the smaller builders for the forseeable future. “Only smaller players will have the motivation to capitalise on the renewed interest by this category.”

The main attraction of these colonies was the relatively cheap rental accommodation they offered, which is expected to pick up under the new cloak of legality.

“Though a lot of rental stock is already available in these colonies, there is likely to be an overdrive in construction as builders will try and lure buyers with the regularisation tag. Illegal constructions are learnt to have taken off in many colonies ever since the news of regularisation were announced. This will result in more units being available for rent,” said Kumar.

The larger question, however is, can the government provide the infrastructure in these colonies to bring them on par with other planned localities?

A number of colonies that were regularised in 1977 are still in shambles, with basic infrastructure such as sewage, parks, dispensaries and street lights missing.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Though regularisation of such colonies will finally allow residents easy land transactions, which till now was solely based on General Power of Attorney (GPA), providing civic amenities are a long way off, experts believe.

According to Prof PSN Rao, Professor of Housing, SPA New Delhi, a huge amount of money needs to be spent on these colonies to provide them with the basic amenities such as piped water supply, roads, sewer lines, etc. “I do not see this happening since the colonies regularised earlier have still not received these facilities, so where is the question of the 916 getting them ? It will take decades before anything is done here,” Rao said.

He added that the numbers are so huge that existing manpower will not be in a position to do the work. “In most colonies, the road width and slope are such that providing amenities would become extremely difficult. Detailed surveys and planning is essential. Preparing plans for physical improvement would itself take years to complete, forget about implementation,” maintained Rao.

However, the Delhi government has promised to complete all developmental work at the earliest. Dikshit said, “All government departments have been directed to survey and begin work in such colonies at the earliest. We will now begin work on regularising the remaining 700-odd colonies in Delhi.”

(With inputs from Srinath Rao)

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