Over the past 12 years, successive governments – both in Delhi and at the Centre – have made regularisation promises for unauthorised colonies but nothing much changed on ground because of the political differences and technical issues.
Handing over ownership rights to the residents is a major step in granting legal status to the settlements and hence paving the way for the civic facilities, which lacked for quite some time now.
In yet another hope for over 40 lakh residents, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Bill to grant ownership rights to the dwellers of unauthorised colonies. “The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the proposal to introduce the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill, 2019 during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. This Bill will help in allowing the registration of properties and provide certain relief to the residents in unauthorised colonies of Delhi from the registration charges and stamp duty,” said a government spokesperson.
These settlements are located on private or public lands in the Capital. Properties, whether in the form of plot of land or built up space, are generally held through the General Power of Attorney, Will, Agreement to Sale, Payment and Possession documents. The properties in these colonies are not being registered by registration authorities, and so the residents do not have any title documents and the banks and financial institutions do not extend credit facilities like home loans. In 1962, Delhi had only 110 unauthorised colonies, built-in contravention of zoning regulations, where some two lakh people lived. Migration continued but agencies failed to meet the growing low-cost housing demands.
Land acquisition hurdles and encroachments made matters worse. The number of illegal settlements climbed to 1,200 by 2017 as the execution of legal actions like demolition drives by the successive governments had long gone out of the equation due to electoral compulsions. In fact, granting legit tags to these neighbourhoods has been a poll plank for all parties in the recent years. Today, 30% of Delhi’s population live in 1,797 unauthorised colonies – many without basic services like waste management, proper roads, parks, water supply, sewerage lines and parking lots. Residents, however, are not much excited after the move. It is because the issue had been in the poll agenda of many political parties since last two decades and the fresh decision comes months before Delhi Assembly elections, they said.
“What happens if the model code of conduct gets implemented before the completion of the process of regularisation. There are too many colonies and there is too less time left. If the Centre and the state governments want us to give right to our properties, they shall work together and complete the process before the implementation of the model code of conduct without any further delay,” said Veer Singh Pradhan, a resident of Ranveer Colony of Ghadauli Extension, East Delhi. The Ghadauli Extension was a place where the government rented land to milkmen for Rs 4 per cattle during early 80s, to keep the dairy business out of the city. Eventually, over 40 years, the buildings kept erecting in the area and it became an unauthorised colony. Most of these colonies fall in North East and North West Delhi.
“The biggest roadblock in development of unauthorised colonies is the unavailability of loans on property. Either to construct a house or to get the house mortgaged; the residents are totally dependant on private sector nonbanking financial corporations and loan mafias like the nationalised and private banks refuse to give loans. These loans are on very higher interest rates and only a handful of residents of such colonies can afford it. If I get the ownership rights of my property, I will take loan against property to fund my children’s study,” Chandan Singh, a resident of Chandan Vihar Colony of Burari, North East Delhi, told Mail Today. Earlier in 2008, UPA chief Sonia Gandhi had distributed provisional certificates to over 1,200 unauthorised colonies. Those residents claim that the certificates are lying idle and they are of no use as they still have to buy and sell their properties on power of attorney, not registry. The residents of these areas largely come from a lower income group and they want the government to simplify the process and keep the registry fee affordable.
A LAYOUT PLAN
The government has set a cutoff date of January 1, 2015 for granting property ownership and give rights to the residents.
For the regularisation process to begin, the colony has to have a registered Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA). There has to be a layout plan of the colony and a complete list of the residents. The plan has to include information like boundaries of the colony and the names of streets. Once the application for regularisation is submitted a series of steps are to be carried out by the civic body.
‘A POSITIVE DECISION’
Arunava Dasgupta of School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) in an earlier conversation with Mail Today admitted that giving property ownership and transferring rights to people was a positive decision. The first step towards allowing residents to belong to a city is to give recognition and security of tenure. Only after that there is a possibility of being able to leverage that security in different ways, especially in terms of long-term livelihood as well as looking at the economic upgradation in some form or the other, he said.
“But it has to be followed up with very strong commitments towards improving the physical quality of the living environment in those areas. The framework of development taking place can’t be free of regulations,” he said.
“Since people do not pay taxes while buying properties, essential services are poor in these colonies. For years, while successive governments have promised to regularise these settlements, they have also provided services. The Delhi government undertook works of Rs 6,000 crore for their development in the last four and a half years,” he added.
BJP’s Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari accused both the rivals for delaying the process for poll gains, and said that only the BJP delivered. “Since last 20 years, both the political parties, Congress and AAP, have been doing politics over the issue. Now, BJP has done what it promised,” he said. The Congress termed the BJP move as a poll stunt. Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra said, “After six years, suddenly they are showing sympathy for unauthorised colonies. We fear that the move won’t end up making the owners of the houses to run pillar to post in DDA offices and virtually become a tenant in their own houses paying hefty taxes every year.”
The AAP said the Bill was passed by its government four years ago but the Centre did not work on it. “The AAP government has submitted `6,000 crore for such colonies. Now, BJP has passed the Bill ahead of polls and the residents won’t get the ownership rights before polls,” said AAP’s Sanjay Singh.
-Inputs by Prashasti Shandily