Recently there were several news articles in the press citing the views of Delhi RWAs over DDA’s proposal to increase FAR for shops and commercial establishments in residential areas on payment of conversion charges.
At the very outset, it should be pointed out, particularly to press reporters that there is no such thing as a common view of Delhi’s RWAs. Any person or group claiming to speak for all RWAs is misleading the press as well as the public. Several RWA federations exist, but given Delhi’s diversity, no two RWAs are alike and all have a different view on different matters. Federations usually work by collectively leveraging for common area development even as their members differ on various issues. At times some RWA may express a common opinion but to lay claim to an all encompassing view of all Delhi’s RWA is simply not true
Coming to the issue of this purported denouncement by few individuals from RWAs, of DDA’s proposals to increase FAR, the least that can be said is that their position is morally untenable, politically immature and technically unsound
Demands like providing additional infrastructure before increasing FAR show a lack of understanding of how retrofitting ought to be done when densification is the need of the hour. Delhi’s population density has increased 500% since 1980 and its RWA simply cannot afford to dish out the same stock statements, unchanged, since the 80’s
It is indeed surprising that residents who have over the years resorted to large scale illegal construction in Delhi’s posh colonies and DDA SFS flats, fought and lobbied to have their own FAR enhanced under the grounds of genuine need, today take a faux moral position on the same need of commercial establishments. RWAs comprise of member residents who have built builders floors, converted one house into multiple apartments and basements, parked 10 times the cars on pedestrian walkways, occupied the back and front service lanes and made crores by selling and renting their own properties for commercial gain, are now crying wolf over when someone else is seeking to enrich himself commercially!
It is my view that if the tables were turned by the Supreme Court’s Monitoring Committee, the same residents of posh colonies will be running for their lives when bulldozers come looking for illegal construction/encroachment in residential back yards, front/back lanes and roofs or tow away their cars that have ravaged the footpaths forcing pedestrians to risk their lives. Crores worth of public land has been taken over by these worthies. RWAs do not write to the MCD or the Government reporting the illegal acts of its own subscribers (they should, for the sake of our city) but some of them have been rather shrill in denouncing commercial spaces.
Delhi has a shortage of commercial space and excessive illegal and unauthorised residential space, so the position taken by some people in RWAs is untenable. Delhi needs densification, transit oriented development and an increase in FAR. We will need to find ways and means to co-exist with an increased pressure on existing infrastructure through an intense management of spaces, traffic, parking, water and air rather than hope that the problems of high migration, multiplying families, economic boom can have their after effects exported to some far flung area.
Again, on the issue of parking the position taken by some RWA members is sullen and cynical. That does not help. The State simply does not have the wherewithal to chaperone and/or punish a population opposed to the rule of law. RWAs will have to clean up their own act before throwing stones at others from their own house of glass. The demand raised that the Government ought to provide “adequate parking for residents in their vicinity” is disingenuous. It is tantamount to saying that an owner of 10 cars is entitled to be provided parking by the Government. By that logic parents of 10 children are entitled to housing in their neighbourhood and that all shopkeepers are entitled to warehouses for their goods. This kind of ridiculous argument gathers momentum among unthinking people and public pressure through civil society groups produce a master plan based on false precepts. This must be avoided.
It is correct that impelled by greed and pressures of competitive & partisan politics, the city has made a mess of things but moving forward the Resident Welfare Associations and Market Trader Associations will have to sit across the table and very honestly admit to their own complicity in aiding and abetting Delhi’s slide into this catastrophe.
The Government must punish those who have violated the existing law and those who have broken existing rules. But moving forward, laws will have to be changed to accommodate mammoth changes in the city’s migration, politics, demographics and economy
There is no such word as ‘decongestion’ and ‘purely residential’ in a highly populated, extremely dense and politically surcharged city. We will have to organise within this chaos, and there are ways of doing it if resident as well as market bodies stop having double standards and brainstorm to get their act together. Else be prepared to have politicians continue to manipulate and retain their hold over a crumbling city
The views expressed by the author are personal