Jharkhand and homes without maps: Puny process of clearance at the heart of this mammoth developmental issue

In April 2011, the BJP-JMM coalition informed the Jharkhand HC that 1.4 lakh houses of total 1.7 lakh houses in Ranchi are built without any kind of map clearance. This means that almost 90% homes were built without layout /map clearance.

Arghya Bhaskar February 02, 2021 19:50:13 IST
Jharkhand and homes without maps: Puny process of clearance at the heart of this mammoth developmental issue

In response to a clarification sought by the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA), the Jharkhand government, on 14 January, sent a letter to various government officials, re-stating the requirements for approving the layout map of plots. This letter was directed to those administrative offices that possess the distinctive power of approving maps — municipal commissioners of various urban areas or ‘panchayats’, secretaries of Regional Development Authorities, etc.

Towns of Jharkhand are moving through a grave state of city-mismanagement where the structures of prominent cities are constantly becoming ineffectual in the face of the fast-paced city growth. It is raising legible concerns of tribal rights and sustainability. Surprisingly, one important factor that is sitting at the core of this mammoth developmental issue is seemingly puny process of map clearance.

Ranchi Regional Development Authority is an associate body of Ranchi Municipal Corporation, and is concerned with maintaining town-planning standards. It had sought direction from the Jharkhand government in the matter of Layout map approval. The Jharkhand Building Bylaws of 2016 followed in the state read that in order to get a layout map approved, the concerned individual or the organisation must possess

1) The Mutation ‘Raseed’

2) The Registered Sale Deed, and;

3) The 1932 Ledger of the land (referred to as ‘Khatiyan’ in Jharkhand), a primary document of ownership that was distributed among owners in the form of written documents after land survey of 1932 and here, the cause of concern.

The RRDA had asked the state government if they can approve the layout maps only on the basis of first two as they complained that ‘Khatiyan’ possessed by the applicants dated back to 1932 and are almost 90 years old. It explains that in most case the physical state of these documents are very terrible, often available in torn pieces. In other cases, general category people provide ‘untitled’ Khatiyan. The state government sought clarification from state’s attorney general, who refused the proposal of RRDA, citing the Building Bylaws of 2016 after which the Jharkhand government sent the letter to concerned government officials.

The highly discouraged idea of map clearance

In April 2011, the BJP-JMM coalition informed the Jharkhand High Court that 1.4 lakh houses out of total 1.7 lakh houses in Ranchi are built without any kind of map clearance from the state authorities. This means that almost 90 percent houses were built without layout /map clearance. This information to the court was followed by a demolition drive as ordered by Jharkhand High Court. The then deputy chief minister Hemant Soren, who also held the Urban development portfolio, said that those who are being displaced will be rehabilitated within a month. No data is available about rehabilitation.

In May 2017, The Times of India reported that the Dhanbad Municipal Corporation (DMC), too, claimed that “many houses in Dhanbad have been constructed without the approval of layout maps.” In reaction to this, the Mineral Area Development Authority (MADA) announced a door to door campaign to identify such houses. Speaking to The Times of India, a former MD of MADA, Ravindra Kumar Singh said, “if such a campaign takes place, more than 25000 houses would be deemed inappropriate, because they deviated from their initial plan.”

What is clear from these details is that the process of getting maps approved is highly discouraged among the public because of its complex and exhaustive nature. This leads to unplanned construction of structures, compromising on safety, cleanliness and standard of living. It defeats the idea of development and planning and restricts it to a mere application of scientific advancement. And it’s not just the case of individual houses; builders of apartments and other residential complexes too, violate the process of map approval. Almost an year ago, two high rises on the Lalpur-Kokar road (the urban hub of Ranchi ) were summoned by the RMC for unplanned constructions after being deemed illegal by the RMC. Later, they were spared with a fine imposition and some time to get the map approved.

Understanding the negligence

The number of towns in Jharkhand grew from 13 in 1901 to 35 in 1951, and to 228 in 2011. According to the 2011 Census, urban population of the state grew to 24.05 percent from two percent in 1901.  The planning of cities began to cater to the needs of this growing population, except Jamshedpur. It is imperative to note here that ‘planning’ was never the basis of developing cities in Jharkhand like Ranchi, Dhanbad or Bokaro. It arose from the sudden adjustment of the ever-growing population. The master plan of Ranchi and the establishment of RRDA were part of such plannings.

The availability of enormous amounts of fallow land enabled people to construct buildings and structures in direct violation of the city plan with no proper drainage or roads.

The complexity has arisen due to provisions of various Acts made for the protection of tribal rights. By the virtue of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act (SPT), the Adivasi land is non-transferable by sale, to a non-Adivasi and can only be gifted to an individual or an organisation. The state and Union governments though, can acquire these lands after providing compensations in accordance with CNT and SPT Acts.

There is a clear difference between the intent and the implication of these laws by authorities. Aashish Khakha, a Phd research scholar with the School of Development Studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, in his 2019 paper titled "Adivasis, the Fifth Schedule and Urban Development: a study of Greater Ranchi", stated that such expansion cannot practically happen without the acquisition of CNT land.

This hush-hush sale and purchase of Adivasi lands is a source of profit making for many authorities, but their short sightedness disables them from contemplating how these cities will sustain the burden of increasing population in coming years. In such a scenario, any provision for the betterment of the city will fail in achieving its targets. From a pollution control system to a sewage treatment plant- everything works in accordance with the planned structure of the city, the structure that remains absent from the towns of Jharkhand (unapproved map clearance).

The case of Greater Ranchi

The case of ‘Greater Ranchi’ that is constructed inside the HECL complex in Ranchi's Dhurwa tells the tale of the government’s acquisition of CNT land and the muted RRDA. In 1985, Jawaharlal Nehru-led Union government gifted 7,200 acres of land to the Heavy Engineering Corporation Ltd. (HECL) by displacing 23 Adivasi villages.

The HECL produced heavy machineries for production of various mineral-based products and was advertised as the face of ‘development of new India’. But HECL failed miserably in its endeavors, leaving behind a huge proportion of land vacant. Later, it stopped its functions and handed over the land to the government of the newly created state of Jharkhand. It was then that the name ‘Greater Ranchi Project’ was bestowed upon it. The then chief minister Babulal Marandi proposed to acquire more 39,682 acre of land in the Namkum block.

Dr Vasavi Kiro, an RTI activist and a member of Indigenous Women India Network (IWIN) , filed an RTI which clearly showed that almost all the lands of seven villages acquired by the government in the name of CISF and the state are Adivasi settlements. Adivasis from 18 villages of the Namkum block protested against the expansionist proposals.

The concern raised by Dr Kiro was regarding violation of PESA. By the virtue of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA )Act, 1996, Municipal Corporations cannot extend their jurisdiction to PESA areas under which 18 villages of Namkum fall. Therefore, she says, the RMC’s operation in these areas is constitutionally illegal. She claims the Greater Ranchi project to be the biggest violation of CNT Act since the independence of India in 1947.

This case is indicative of the manipulative nature of RRDA and Ranchi Municipal Corporation, especially when the organisation/project is backed by the government (Union or State).

Systemic loophole

The state judiciary is filled with cases of illegal and deliberate land acquisition. This number increases all the more when additional cases of illegal constructions join the list. The judiciary keeps getting new cases of same nature and different stories. This scenario is enabled through the loopholes in the system itself. Map-approval cannot serve as an identifier of fraudulent cases as it does not bring any real change. It only fills the pockets of a few. The issue calls for a closer examination by the government, especially in its elementary judicial stages and during the sale and purchase of land. The basic tenants of the Acts, that give special measures to Adivasi population to protect their rights, must be held.

Image by Aashu Abhishek

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