The recent accident at a Delhi Metro construction site has led to a sudden spate of articles and debates in both the print and the electronic media. It seems that while we have gone ahead building flyovers and sea links, the basic problem of roads, drainage, water supply, electricity has remained unaffected.
Is this the right way to go about developing our cities? People are asking.
One cheeky commentator, replying to this question, said that question was not whether we were following the right model of development, rather whether we were following any model of development.
Now, how true is that?
As far as Delhi is concerned, though there is a Delhi Master Plan 2021, its implementation rests more on hope than on expectation. Two of the earlier master plans, the Delhi Master Plan 2021 admits, had virtually no correlation with the actual development work that took place.
It says that before land could be developed it had to be acquired; this did not take place. Why? Because of paper work, the document says. This means that the land could not be acquired because the officials could not find a way to document the acquisition. A preposterous example of governmental red tapes, I have yet to come across.
But even if the plan is implemented, there would be a large lacuna still left, begging to be addressed. For example, the structural drawings of the Delhi Master Plans 2021 provide for a population of 230 lakhs, of which 153 lakhs are to be accommodated through 'redevelopment' of the current residential area.
This redevelopment, we are told, would take the form of people pooling in their housing areas to build multi-storey housing complex. The structural drawings for such a plan are a little confusing. The total area cannot be less than 3000 sq ft. How is such a large area to be put together? What would happen if, say, 9 out of ten people who need to pool in their house areas are ready but the 10th person is not?
The Delhi Master Plan 2021 does not provide for the rampant corruption that has beset the DDA, converting it from an organization involved in realizing a grand vision of urban development to one which is engaged in land grab.
The Delhi Master Plan 2021 also speaks, in high sounding words, of the necessary participation of private organizations. One cannot speak against such an excellent proposition. Private participation should be encouraged by all means. But is there a correlation between the cost at which such organizations would be supplied land - which is public land, mind you - and the cost at which they would provide housing to the poor? It is in such areas that one fears of a slip between the cup and the lip.
Another thing that anybody living in Delhi would fear, would be its transformation after the grand implementation of the Delhi Master Plan 2021 into a city resembling Gurgaon.
The Structural drawings for Gurgaon did not provide for corner stores, small kiosks, and spaces where traveling vendors could display their wares. As a result, one of the chief sources of liveliness of a city is completely missing in Gurgaon. It looks like an amalgam of corporate offices rather than an organic city.