Those looking for a modern exhibition-cum-commercial centre along the lines in most modern cities will cheer the Cabinet clearing, last week, a Rs 40,000 crore project in Dwarka near the Delhi airport—apart from having an air-cargo complex, the 144-hectare complex will have 2 million square feet of exhibition halls, a 6,000-seat convention centre, commercial office space, 3,500 hotel rooms and a multi-purpose arena with a capacity to seat 18,000 persons. Along with that, however, the Dwarka story is that of horrendous red-tape preventing a project from taking off for nearly six years, and that’s when it didn’t have to face any delays in acquiring land of the sort that are now routine under the UPA’s land acquisition Act—the land was already with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Ironically, this was the fate of a 5-star project to be developed by the DMICDC, set up with generous Japanese assistance to create new cities along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor as well as big projects like Dwarka. Unlike conventional government projects where everything is developed by the developer, DMICDC’s structure involves very detailed designing involving global architecture/design firms such as AECOM which developed cities like Songdo in China and the Shatui area in Hong Kong and CH2M HILL which was in charge of the London Olympics—under the structure, while the core infrastructure is built by DMICDC, the rest is done by private developers in keeping with DMICDC’s specifications.
Given the land was already with the DDA, the project seemed a cinch in November 2010 when talks on it first began. Except, DDA wanted a slice of the action. On February 8, 2012, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) decided the project would be fully handled by DMICDC—DDA then pressed for an equity stake in the project but no decision was taken on that. In May, it was decided DMICDC would develop the project and the land would be transferred by the DDA on ‘government-to-government transfer policy’ which means at zero cost. Given it was the PMO that had taken the decision, you would think it was final, but it wasn’t, and the issue of removing the air-cargo unit and giving it to DDA to develop kept coming up; at one point the DDA even said that if the land was used for commercial purposes, it would have to be auctioned as per the rules—those interested in the long saga, can read goo.gl/XmmsoT. Thankfully, the saga is now finally over, but just imagine the fate of ordinary developers who don’t have the backing of the government in the way DMICDC does and cannot summon the PMO to their assistance with anywhere near the same ease. If the UPA is guilty of not being able to get the project on track despite the DDA being under its operational purview, the NDA is guilty of not moving on the project for 22 months.