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LS passes bill to stop demolition for a year

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, May 12: The Lok Sabha today passed a bill seeking to stop for one year the ongoing demolition and sealing drive against unauthorised construction in the capital while the government promised to construct 100,000 dwelling units for slum dwellers in two years.

The Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Bill, moved by Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, was given a special consideration. It was exempted from the mandatory seven-day notice for consideration and passed unanimously with both the treasury and opposition benches supporting it.

Winding up the debate on the bill, which seeks to maintain status quo for a year from January 1, 2006, Mr Reddy said the one-year period available with the government would be made use of to enumerate a list of pardonable and negligible violation.

While reiterating that the government was committed to developing a ''world class'' Delhi, he said the endeavour did not mean that it was against the slum dwellers.

He said the interests of the slum dwellers would be taken care of as they were the people who provide several services, including in the booming construction sector, and in households in multi-storey buildings.

In this context, he assured the members that the slum dwellers would be relocated as far as possible. ''In situ development is required not only for the sake of slum dwellers but also for those who seek services from them.''

Mr Reddy said 100,000 housing units would be constructed in the next two years with the money that the government proposed to raise by selling slum lands located in prime areas. Only those who have settled in these lands before 1998 would be entitled to alternate accommodation being provided by the government. The one-year moratorium is to give time to the concerned agencies to finalise norms, policy guidelines and strategies in respect of different categories of unauthorised constructions.

Mr Reddy said the relocation of slum dwellers would be undertaken only in cases where the land was required specifically for any public project.

He said the government would not give alternate accommodation to displaced slum dwellers on the fringes of the city because it would increase unemployment.

He said no further encroachment would be tolerated.

The minister assured the house that the process of finalising Delhi Master Plan, 2021, would be expedited. The draft plan had already been notified and more than 7,000 responses received.

In the case of vendors and hawkers, Mr Reddy said they would also be allowed to exist but with some regulation. ''Our Delhi needs not only gleaming and shining malls, but also street corner hawkers.'' Mr Reddy said the government was looking at the development of not only Delhi, but also the National Capital Territory (NCT) in a planned manner.

The bill provides for a breather to those guilty of unauthorised constructions till the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 is ready. According to the statement of objects and reasons in the bill, it has become necessary to take all possible measures for the finalisation of the norms, policy guidelines and feasible strategies in respect of problems relating to the unauthorised development due to mixed land use.

The other problems which also require solution include construction beyond sanctioned plans and encroachment by slum dwellers, JJ dwellers, hawkers and street vendors in Delhi within a definite time-frame.

''While this exercise is taken up by Government and its relevant agencies, it has become necessary to maintain status quo in respect of these categories of unauthorised development existing as on the 1st January, 2006.

''For this purpose, it is proposed to enact a law to enable the government to take a balanced and well-considered view on policies involving such unauthorised development so that the development of Delhi takes place in a sustainable and planned manner, and also provide temporary relief to the persons residing or carrying out commercial activities or otherwise dependent upon such unauthorised development, till such time as the policy or strategy is finalised.

''The government, therefore, considers it necessary and desirable to make a special law for this purpose for the National Capital Territory of Delhi,'' the Minister said.

Participating in the discussion, BJP Deputy floor leader Prof Vijay Kumar Malhotra, whose party had stalled Parliament proceedings yesterday demanding immediate introduction of the Bill, said the proposed legislation had come ''too late'' and contained ''too little.'' Further the Bill had several loopholes and as such the proposed law would not stand scrutiny in a court of law and might fail to provide relief to the affected people whose 40,000 shops and 20,000 houses had been brought down in the past few months.

Cutting across party lines, the bill was welcomed by both the treasury and oposition benches. However, many members complained that the bill was a ''belated exercise''.

Marxist member Hannan Mollah regretted that the demolition drive was due to the insensitivity of the successive governments and corruption among officials.

CPI member Gurudas Dasgupta said that beautification of Delhi should not be at the cost of poor and toiling masses. He said the demolition issue had come to such a sorry pass because of persistent political connivance and corruption.

Mr Sajjan Kumar (Congress) said though unauthorised construction should not be allowed, some relief should be given to the existing structures.

Mr Devendra Prasad Yadav (RJD) and Mr Mohan Singh, Mr Praja Kishore Tripathy (BJD) and Mr Prabhunath Singh (JD-U) argued for the slum dwellers, saying that they should be rehabilitated in places where they are located at present.


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