Liberation and land pooling in Delhi – A dichotomous relationship

Liberation and land pooling in Delhi – A dichotomous relationship

Land pooling is a more than USD 100-billion opportunity for the Capital city and the government’s flip-flop on the policy is not only causing damage to landowners, but also to the economy of Delhi

Ramesh Menon

‘Too many governments, too much governance’. Sadly, that’s the challenge the landowning community is saddled with in Delhi. Governments as well as its agencies are working at cross purposes, thereby inflicting debilitating blows on the potential development and investment opportunity of more than USD 100 billion, over the next decade.

Take a look at this:

2007: Delhi Master Plan 2021 notified.

2013: Land Pooling Policy notified.

2014: India votes new government to power.

2015: Multiple misplaced reviews and changes initiated.

2018: We are still where we were

It indeed was a paradigm shift when the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) announced the model for land pooling as the preferred model for the next level of urbanisation of Delhi. It was expected to unlock more than 50,000 hectares of land. Data establishes that almost 60 percent of the total land is still with the farmers or traditional land owning community. The balance 40 percent is estimated to be a ‘Non performing capital’ of institutions and high net worth individuals to the tune of USD 6 billion.

This Independence Day is unlikely to bring any cheer to the landowners of Delhi owing to the apathy and lack of understanding of local issues by the policy makers. Hence, every proposed change or amendment would only rob the Delhi Master Plan 2021 of its credibility as the ‘largest and most profitable investment opportunity in real estate’ for the coming couple of decades.

And here’s the dichotomy. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which prepared the master plan and zonal plans, has virtually outsourced its strategic policy making responsibility to the NIUA. NIUA seems to be revisiting the policy in totality, which probably may not be in the best interests of the landowners. On the other hand, the Delhi government has announced the ‘chakbandi’ (consolidation) of some villages, which may have to be excluded from the pooling process, till it is complete in all respects. The DDA, Delhi Jal Board (DJB), MCD, electricity department, etc. seem to downgrading the plans more as a ruse to hide their in built inefficiencies.

Inefficiencies don’t liberate the truth, namely, Delhi NCT has to be developed to accommodate a population of 25 million people over the next decade. The total requirement of housing units would be in excess of 1.5 million dwelling units. The proposal of the authorities to reduce the FAR (from 400 to 200) would make it extremely unviable for the institutional investors to commit funds to this opportunity.

It is my sense that the policy makers, specially those representing the political arm of governance, are not seized of the extent of damage their flip-flop is causing; not just to the landowners, but also the economy of Delhi. What worries more is that the landowners would exit somehow, someday, but it may be by way of plotting the land into unauthorised settlements, which would be counter productive to the stated intent.

Do we seek a Capital of India which is home to more than 5000 unauthorised colonies? Would we want half the population to dwell in these shanties, than a planned city? Liberation would mean differently to different segments, but governments should only endeavour to trigger economic activity and enhance quality of life.

(The author is an opinion leader on the subject of urbanisation of Delhi. He is the founder director of Certes Realty Ltd, and an Independent director on the board of SPA Capital Ltd.)

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