LEGALISING UNAUTHORIZED COLONIES -A VOTEBANK STRATEGY

Anamika Joshi
10th July 2013

Recently at a public event, New Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit spoke out on the increasing trend of authorizing slum areas and other illegal colonies into legal settlements. She said “There is a vested interest at work but now we need to do something about it”. Illegal housing units have cropped up over the past 2 decades on land which was originally meant for agricultural purposes as per the Master Plan. The ruling Congress party has itself used authorization of such areas as a means to achieve success in 3 consecutive assembly elections.
In the year 2000, atleast 17% of Delhi’s population was living in unauthorized or regularized unauthorized (legalized by the Govt.) colonies. Even this year, ahead of the 2014 general elections, the state Govt. has approached the centre for legalization of 800 such colonies that are home to some 35 lakh people.
Land experts at Certes believe that the Govt. itself is becoming party to illegal land deals by recognizing these settlements. My Ajay Dabas of Certes Realty says “The Govt. needs to stop treating these areas as just votebanks. It keeps their future uncertain for a number of years and just before the election, they legalize these colonies prompting these people to vote them back into power”.

An unauthorized colony is created when one buys agricultural land from individual farmers or village council, divide it into plots and sell them. Sometimes they develop houses on the plots and sell them like that. Despite the fact that residents of these colonies pay for plots/ houses and have documentary proof of the same, these colonies are illegal because the original land owner (farmer) did not have the right to sell the land in the first place.

One of the benefits of living in such a colony is that after legalization, the price of the property increases manifold. Experts believe that this motivates perpetrators into land-grabbing. For customers it also represents a fairly cheaper alternative that will give them significant increase in returns, once legalized.

Another school of thought is that instead of punishing them, the people of these colonies should be treated as victims. While the development of such areas wasn’t stopped in their nascent stages, they have become full-fledged colonies which are homes to millions of people. By keeping them unauthorized, the Govt. is only keeping them away from all the civic facilities they need. Whichever the case maybe, the political parties need to stop using these issues while fishing for votebanks, so that this trend can stop repeating itself.

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