The regularisation of unauthorised colonies in Delhi is expected to be an important issue in the upcoming campaign for the Assembly polls, particularly after the Centre on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Lok Sabha to provide ownership rights to people living in these colonies.
The move comes days after Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri announced that the Delhi Development Authority would accept applications for regularisation of plots in unauthorised colonies from 16 December.
Puri had said that applicants would get the ownership certificates within 180 days from the date of application. The minister also inaugurated a portal to define and delineate boundaries of the colonies.
The bill — officially called the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Public Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill, 2019 — is expected to benefit more than 40 lakh people spread across over 1,700 unauthorised colonies. If the bill is passed, it will fulfil a decades-old demand.
Puri was also quoted as saying while inaugurating a website in this regard, “What the Delhi government could not do in 11 years, we have done in just three months. The obstructionist and irresponsible attitude of the Delhi government is evident on every issue pertaining to the welfare of the people.”
The AAP, on its part, claimed that the Centre introduced the bill under pressure. The party's Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said, “We want an immediate ordinance on this matter and the registry should start immediately. The people of unauthorised colonies have been cheated earlier also in the same way and we do not want a repeat of such an act again by the BJP.”
Challenges pertaining to unauthorised colonies
A study conducted by Centre for Policy Research defines an unauthorised colony as a settlement built in contravention of zoning regulations, developed either in violation of Delhi’s master plans or on ‘illegally’ subdivided agricultural land.
“The literature on unauthorised colonies sets out two distinguishing features: one, these areas have been ‘illegally’ subdivided into plots, and; two, the buyers of plots in these settlements posses documents that prove some form of tenure, which may be characterised as ‘semi-legal’,” it says.
Bhupendra Rawat, a civil rights activist in Delhi who has working towards regularising these colonies said, “The mushrooming of unauthorised colonies is an outcome of the failure of the Delhi Development Authority in ensuring housing for the working class which provides people with basic services.”
Rawat added that there are legal hindrances in carrying out developmental activities in unauthorised colonies. “Some of the unauthorised colonies are in areas that fall under the forest department, while are located near the Yamuna river. So some legal formalities are necessary before regularisation of such colonies,” he added.
The demand to regularise unauthorised colonies goes back to the 1960s. The study by Centre for Policy Research further notes, “In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of unauthorised colonies were ‘regularised’. Although the exact conditions parameters on which these regularisations were carried out remain unclear, it appears that these regularisations were based on resolutions taken either by the DDA or by standing committees of the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Logically, regularisation should bring these colonies into the ambit of the ‘planned’ city.” The study also said that despite regularisation, these colonies continue to be referred to as “regularised-unauthorised colonies”, remaining squarely within the taxonomy of ‘unplanned’ settlement.
In the year 2012, 895 colonies were found eligible for regularisation.
Since the residents of unauthorised colonies do not have legal ownership of land, these properties are never considered as equivalent to other properties in the capital city in terms of their value. Rawat noted, "One of the biggest problems faced by people living in such colonies is that the land documents are not accepted as mortgage by banks and they have to seek loans during times of need from private lenders at very high rates of interest.”
Amrit Singh, who lives in an unauthorised colony at Badarpur, said, "In the past, many families left Delhi as they failed to repay loans taken from private moneylenders. If these colonies are regularised, this problem will be solved forover." Singh owns a two-storey home, and hopes that the value of his property will rise if the land on which it stands is regularised.
Lawyer Ashok Agarwal said that once these colonies are regularised, there would be no excuse left for government agencies to delay developmental activities. He noted, "Often, authorities cite the legal status of these colonies as a pretext not to undertake development activities. But if they are regularised, they would be bound to extend water supply, sewage and drainage schemes to these areas."
The move to regularise unauthorised colonies seems like a bid to split Kejriwal's vote bank in unauthorised colonies. But will this move result in a major swing of votes in favour of the saffron party as expected? Only time can answer this question.
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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2019 22:25:53 IST