MULTIPLICITY OF INSTITUTIONS IN DELHI: GOI (ASHOK PRADHAN) COMMITTEE
PRELIMINARY RESPONSE OF COMMON CAUSE
1. The questionnaire issued covers a very broad area of the administration of the National Capital Delhi. The large number of questions as framed are frequently overlapping and occasionally even repetitive. I propose to deal with a few basic issues to give my views but will not attempt to answer the questionnaire.
2. The major issue that is bothering the politicians of Delhi is that Delhi remains a Union Territory with an elected Legislature but has not been given the full status of a "State" under the Constitution with the freedom of action that entails.
3. It therefore remains an apparently convenient method of keeping the levers of power in the hands of the Central Government and its various Ministries, with the Departments of the Union Territory Government working only as the field agencies as far as national policies are concerned with a few "harmless" areas left to the UT Government and Legislature. This is the basic dichotomy that the Central Government and Parliament have not addressed.
4. In addition, there is the most contentious issue of land, its control and management, and the allocation required for various social activities like schools, higher education, health and generally for exercising control on the economic and cultural activities in an informed manner.
5. In this regard, the most criticized organization is the Delhi Development Authority working under the Ministry of Urban Development. This organization prepares the plans for the development of Delhi, the utilization and management of land, the pattern of communications to be developed under a statutory Master Plan, etc.
6. Although in the formal sense each Master Plan has to have full consultation with the people and get finalized after hearing objections and suggestions, the fact remains that the public interest in the document gets expressed only after it has been finalized and its implementation begun. At that stage, the vested interests, MLAs and MPs of Delhi, and others affected seem to wake up and complain of having been kept in the dark and therefore declaring the whole document or sections of it as undemocratic.
[This is generally the case for all legislations and departmental policies at the point of their implementation. The most glaring example of it is the Act on Rent Control framed entirely in consultation with the UT Government and passed post-haste by Parliament and also approved by the President. At that stage the legislators, both Central and State, seem to have woken up and found that the special interest groups such as landlords would get hurt even though the long-suffering tenants may not get any relief. That was sufficient, however, for the Central Government and the Parliament to decide that the new legislation they had just adopted required changes. A Select Committee went into the matter, softened a lot of the harsher provisions, and a new Act was passed and again approved by the President. However, as it still hurt some vested interests, the law has remained unimplemented despite repeated public protest.
7. By and large, there has been pronounced disinterest in ameliorative measures in all areas, so as to protect the vested interests. In other words, the representatives of the people of Delhi, whether in Parliament or in the UT legislature, are not really interested in orderly governance and would be content if the various areas of their interest can be manipulated outside the law. Over the last three or four decades UT governments of different hues have therefore protected the lawbreakers. The most prominent example of this has occurred during the last one year, when the Superior Courts started taking interest in the strict application of land management and usage laws, the Building Bye-laws of the MCD and the Land Usage Regulations of the DDA. As the Courts stood fast and demanded implementation of their orders, finally we had the strange spectacle of the UT Legislative Assembly passing a resolution unanimously demanding that action against the violation of laws in this respect may not be enforced and may be gone into case by case that would amount to an indefinite postponement of Court intervention! This applied not only to commercialization of residential areas but also to illegal constructions including that on government land.
8. In other words, the citizens and the large number of immigrants living in JJ clusters would remain content if the authorities did not wake up to the great damage being done, both to the development and the management of Delhi. Legal action at that point is resented and obstructed by the lawbreakers as well as the people's representatives. One example, the most blatant and visible, has been the recent action of the Superior Courts mentioned above.
My own experience as Lieutenant Governor of Delhi for nearly five years conforms to the above description. For the first year and a half the new Constitutional set-up had not been introduced and therefore as Administrator I had full control over the Government. Efforts were made from time to time to remove illegal constructions and encroachments including JJ Colonies, but at every step politicians, not only of the ruling Congress at the Centre, but also of BJP and other parties, stood as a wall between the Government agencies and encroachers. Later, with the introduction of the new Constitutional arrangement, the BJP came into power but the approach to encroachments, unauthorized buildings and their protection by the politicians continued. The lawbreakers should not be touched for all possible reasons, including of course the vote bank. It was only in a handful of cases that happened to reach the Superior Courts that action could be pursued but always with great reluctance.
Not the humble JJ Cluster resident alone but all lawbreakers from the top-most to the ground had political support of Congress, BJP and other political workers and indeed in many cases, easily secured interventions at high political levels.
9. It is clear from the above few comments that the "multiplicity of institutions and authorities", or control over land, police, Services etc is being asked for not as a serious democratic right but merely to release lawbreakers from all constraints of the laws and regulations.
10. Another feature implicit in the situation is the all-pervasive corruption in Delhi's administration generally and the MCD and DDA in particular. This corruption exists despite the rare exposures and prosecutions and involves the Delhi Police for whom it provides a very fertile ground for bribery and extortion.
11. It has to be noted of course that correctives in a fully democratic dispensation are always difficult to enforce. The occasional intervention of the Comptroller and Auditor General is always slow and late. The Legislature has shown no particular zeal for demanding accountability. Nor has Parliament.
12. In this state of affairs that is unlikely to change for a long time, therefore, the handing over of complete charge of Delhi to a full-fledged State with control over city-planning, land and land development, communications, health, education, and above all the police, in the present state of the politics of Delhi is likely to prove extremely hazardous. It can safely be said that civic sense has not really developed. There are probably 100000 or more NGOs dealing with small areas of their interest but that does not build up the civic sense needed. The Residents' Welfare Associations have been rather active and the Bhagidari scheme of the Chief Minister has done a lot to bring about coordination in certain areas. It is essential, however, that selected members active in this domain should be included in the planning, execution and monitoring of various programmes of Delhi.
With the above rather elaborate introduction to the political situation in Delhi, I will now make some suggestions for the issues raised in the Committee's questionnaire.
13. When the complaint is made about "the issue of multiplicity of institutions/ agencies/ authorities dealing with the matters relating to urban development and civic services" I see justification in three institutions in particular in which such complaint can be made.
DDA: Control over Land, especially the restraints put on its acquisition, use and its allocation to the Delhi Administration for developing its basic social services, like Education, Health and Recreation.
In saying this it is not the intention to imply that multiplicity by itself is not the cause. In fact the better course would be for the Masterplan authorities to stop at the point of allocation of land, lay down broad rules and regulations, and leave the implementation to the Delhi Government. Delays in essential projects then cannot be blamed on multiplicity of institutions.
As regards the social services area again, requirements should be provided for in outline, and the authority to proceed left to the Delhi Administration. The DDA need not get involved beyond laying down the essential lease conditions in consultation with it.
The requirement of Land for rehabilitation/ relocation of JJ clusters may again be done merely by ascertaining the Administration's needs. The DDA should, after discussion and verification, acquire land and transfer its possession to the Administration.
In such an arrangement, while recognizing the need for a central planning authority, the charge of multiplicity would then not occur. The accountability of the Administration and each organization to which land is given for a purpose shall then be that of the allottee. A high-level Committee of the Administration and DDA should oversee the implementation of these provisions.
14. City Planning and Enforcement: The restraints put on the Administration's plans for development, for example of Communications, including the Metro Rail System; decongestion of Central Delhi by creating decentralized market centres, for example for fish, poultry and meat all of them sanctioned after the intervention of Courts rather than for city-planning per se. It would not be wrong to say that the large majority of such decentralized markets have moved despite provision in the Masterplan only because of the intervention of the Superior Courts. Not only did the various trades etc display strong inertia and obstruct the execution of the plans but they also did not occupy the alternative facilities developed until they were virtually forced to do so. Every trick by using political support or taking more or less imaginary grievances to courts of law was used; it is by no means certain that this attitude will become more constructive for many years yet. Maybe, if all this were done under the authority of the UT Government, things would have moved faster but considering the propensity of resisting disturbance in their businesses, that is unlikely to have happened.
15. The MCD: this is a strange provision under the constitutional arrangement. The MCD is outside the control of the UT Government; it is only tangentially connected with the Lieutenant Governor, and is considered an autonomous appendage of the Home Ministry. It comprises elected Corporators with a Mayor provided with a Secretariat and operational team of the Municipal Commissioner, a senior civil servant appointed by the Home Ministry. The Mayor and Corporators consider the MCD their fiefdom and unfortunately a trend has developed for the Corporators to claim their constituencies as areas under their executive control. The job of the Municipal Commissioner, who is required to enforce all the rules, regulations and bye-laws, becomes an extremely difficult one. Control over the field-work of the senior Engineers is lax. The Property Tax Department is virtually a separate entity working (in fact hardly working) independently, the other Departments likewise.
The whole edifice is corruption-ridden and frequently the Vigilance Department is both ineffective and perhaps involved.
16. In this matter, the complaint of the politicians about their inability to exercise control may be correct. The whole system of the municipality and control over it must be gone into and the organization placed squarely under the Delhi Government, with such safeguards as the Home Ministry considers necessary. The weaknesses that have been noticed in the recent interventions of the Superior Courts and their castigation of the Commissioner and his field-force are fully justified.
If the MCD is redesigned in the above manner, one major cause of the complaint of multiplicity will have been dealt with.
Control by the Subject Ministries in the Social and Development Sector
17. The UT of Delhi has an annual allocation of funds from the Planning Commission at its disposal. In each case the plans are prepared with the approval of the Central Ministry and the UT Administration is in a sense answerable. The fact is that there is considerable confusion resulting in large funds lapsing year after year. The Central Ministries exercise control which perhaps results in nullifying decentralization and leaving hardly any initiative to the field departments. I do not suppose that this complaint has been clearly articulated but in my view management of Departmental programmes is one of the very important functions of the Delhi Government which must be left to the UT Government and accountability ensured. It is necessary here to emphasize strongly the attention required by the Education sector that is so vital to national growth. While Primary education must be under the local bodies, these local bodies must be squarely under the State Government so that there is continuity between Primary and Secondary education.
Police and Law and Order
18. Delhi has a police organization for its requirements. However, control over it is exercised by the Home Ministry direct and the UT Government is not involved. The Commissioner of Police provides such force as is necessary for demolitions etc but control of law and order, traffic, crime and criminal administration are all supposed to be under the Commissioner and the supervision of Government in the sense that the Police Act is also exercised by them. Here again, the abuse of authority by the police and intervention in investigations and prosecutions by legislators etc. remains one of the major problems. The UT government and its legislators would naturally like full control over police like in any other State and there I see no logical reason to deny it. However, the warning I have sounded in Para 12 above will have to be kept in view. If control over police is to be transferred to the Delhi Administration it should be entire and apart from a Committee of Coordination set up by the Central Government, there should be no interference. Major changes in the Police Act are required in any case and will possibly be dealt with by a Committee of Senior Police Officers appointed by the Government of India.
19. The next logical step is to provide the UT Government with an Advocate General and a Director of Prosecutions answerable only to the Courts and not to the UT Government or the Home Ministry.