Parliament approves bill on unauthorised development

Krishnanand Tripathi

File Photo (PTI)

In a rare show of unanimity, Rajya Sabha members on Tuesday approved the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2014 to provide relief to nearly sixty lac residents of illegal colonies, slum dwellers and Jhuggi Jhopris in Delhi. Lok Sabha had already passed on the bill on December 16.

This was the result of hectic parleys between treasury benches and opposition parties as parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and his junior colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi worked hard to ensure the passage of the bill on the last working day of the winter session.

The government said that extension of deadline by another 3 years was necessary to complete the work for orderly relocation or rehabilitation of slum dwellers, Jhuggi-Jhopri clusters, street vendors and regularisation of unauthorised colonies, village abadi areas, schools, dispensaries, religious and cultural institutions and warehouses built on agricultural land as mandated under the law passed in 2011.

Government admitted that while progress has been made in evolving the policies towards implementation of the earlier act, however, more time was needed to complete the work in the light of ground realities.

It said the policies to regularise unauthorised developments in Delhi needed to be modified to bring them in conformity with Delhi’s Master Plan.

Venkaiah Naidu informed the Rajya Sabha that Sangam Vihar, a South Delhi locality with the population of over 5 lac people, was shown as forest area in the master plan and it was impossible to relocate 5 lac residents of Sangam Vihar. He said review of Delhi’s Master Plan 2021 was likely to be completed by early next year.

Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation Minister also informed the house that the work to regularise nearly 1,200 unauthorised colonies in Delhi was at advance stage. Venkaiah Naidu admitted that housing was a massive challenge and NDA government was committed to provide housing to all sections of the society. He said the government would soon formulate a national housing policy for this purpose.

The centre had passed a law in 2006 to protect the interest of Jhuggi Jhopri residents for a period of a year. Thereafter this deadline was extended on yearly basis till 2011 when the centre passed another law to protect the slum dwellers from punitive action or from being evicted till the time a rehabilitation and relocation mechanism was in place. The deadline set in the 2011 Act was expiring on December 31 this year.

An amendment moved in the bill provides that unauthorised colonies which have come up till June 1, 2014 will be entitled for regularisation. The earlier cut-off date was February 8 2007.

The matter assumed urgency as the Supreme Court of India had also given time to the government till December 31 to evolve a policy or pass a legislation to this effect. The bill extends the deadline for a period of another 3 years.

Urban development and poverty alleviation minister M Venkaiah Naidu moved the bill in the Rajya Sabha at around 1 pm when the house reassembled the third time since morning as it was already adjourned twice owing to deadlock between opposition and treasury benches. In the next sixty minutes the debate over the bill was completed and the bill was passed by a voice vote before 2 pm when Chairman Hamid Ansari announced the sine die adjournment of the Rajya Sabha.

Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad started the debate and expressed his party’s support for the bill as was agreed between the opposition and the government. Thereafter, senior Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, Derek O’ Brian, chief whip of All India Trinamool Congress, Senior JD(U) member Sharad Yadav, Sitaram Yechury, leader of CPI(M) in the Parliament, Tiruchi Siva, DMK Member from Tamil Nadu and A. Navaneethakrishnan on behalf of his party AIADMK expressed support of their parties for the poor centric law.

Tiruchi Siva highlighted the policies adopted by Tamil Nadu that gave tenancy rights to slum dwellers way back in 1971. NCP Member Prafull Patel urged the centre to follow the policy adopted by Maharashtra to rehabilitate Mumbai slum dwellers.

There was a brief interruption in otherwise peaceful discussion when BJP member Vijay Goel criticised the policies of previous Congress governments. Goel said there was lack of planning for Delhi in the last six decades which triggered immediate protest from opposition benches. Congress Member Parwez Hashmi retorted by saying that BJP ruled municipal corporations in Delhi had not completed the demarcation work of illegal colonies in the last 8 years that could pave the way for their regularisation.

Senior Bahujan Samaj Party member Satish Chandra Mishra objected to the use of phrase ‘Gandi Basti’ to describe slum dwellers in the Hindi version of the bill. He also called for a proper rehabilitation policy as the present bill only extends the deadline by another 3 years.

Summing up the debate, parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu thanked all the parties for their support in passing the bill and assured them that the phrase ‘Gandi Basti’ would be suitably replaced.